Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Barbecue" Rymes with "Argue"

Though mostly good natured arguing. Because at the heart of the matter, we are talking about sharing food with family, community, and culture,. Sauce and style have become more of a team effort in the internet age. Wear your Eastern Carolina jersey proudly, y'all, I'll be over here onboard the Southern Soul train reppin' Island City barbecue 'till I die.

Where I grew up in Georgia, we had a lot of barbecue at a lot of different places. Some was pork, some was beef, some was chicken or sausage or venison cooked over the same coals. Because if you've already got the coals working, what's the harm in more meat over the fire?

There was usually a selection of sauces: vinegar based, tomato based, mustard based. There were even flavors: hot, sweet, and regular. And you could order it chopped or pulled.

Now that I live in New Orleans, there is cochon-de-lait. Which is either very similar or entirely different from "barbecue" depending on who you are talking to. And, of course, barbecue shrimp - which is its own culinary category altogether.

For some folks, "barbecue" is a noun: the pork and/or beef that is cooked for a long time at "low" heat over a pit of coals. Chicken or sausage or venison didn't count as "barbecue," but were just the sauce covered side-items to the "barbecue."

For others "barbecue" is the verb of cooking any or all meats at "low" heat over a pit of coals. As someone who grew up in Coastal Georgia, this is the closest to my cultural upbringing.

Though there is one line I draw with my inclusiveness: grillin' is not barbecue.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

I'mma Do Me

More GOP elected officials sounding like gangsta rappers.

What happens in the Paul Ryan End Medicare Plan when your private employer does not offer retirees medical benefits? Here's what GOP Representative Rob Woodall of Georgia's 7th Congressional District had to say:

"You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?'"


As if the woman hadn't been paying into Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid through her years of work at a private company. Someone needs to explain to these fools that the woman did take care of herself by working and paying into the program. A program enacted through popular legislation, executive signature, and supported over judicial challenges since the 1930's.

And that GOP representative has the temerity to call her a freeloader in front of a town hall meeting. Because that's what he did. And the "handout" narrative is so deep at this point, he gets applause for saying it. As if Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are all programs forced upon the middle class by a government controlled by a bunch of laughing, lazy, good for nothing layabouts in their Welfare Cadillacs.

Every place I have worked professionally has employed some measure of custodial staff (mostly through contractors) that show up to work at crappy times, work long hours on their feet, pitch in to help other members of their working families, and still have to recieve some sort of food stamp benefit to make ends meet. I can guaran-damn-tee you that the "private company" they work for doesn't offer them retirement benefits. And they're going to be shit out of luck and a burden on their families once they aren't able to work anymore - because they're going to work until their health gives out. They have no real recourse for retirement or medical care once retired, after all.

Somebody needs to explain to me how, exactly, they haven't been taking care of themselves after paying into their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits their whole working lives. Somebody needs to explain to me how the Ryan plan deals with those people. Because I haven't heard a good explanation so far.

I've been trying not to drink too deeply of the "Ending Medicare Forever to Pay for Our Newly Minted Feudal System of Subsidizing the Already Uber Wealthy" Demagougery flavored Kool-Aid, but at what point should I start taking this more seriously? At what point do I have to listen to the very words of the GOP Congressmen themselves when they say "Ending Medicare Forever" and question the morality or philosophy or work ethics of people who are depending on the system they've paid into like they were supposed to.

At what point can I begin to accept that Ending Medicare Forever to pay for tax breaks is not a demogouging fear tactic to win elections, but the GOP's stated philosophical and legislative goal.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

House of Cards

Here's a cautionary tale if there ever was one.

You want to know how Georgia's economy fell apart, read it. That kind of development situation, replicated over and over again - maybe not to scale - combined to crush the state's banks. Though not every situation was big enough to thoroughly derail the Jekyll Island redevelopment.

You'll also notice the absence of federal government culpability, so loudly touted as a way to explain the economic collapse. Instead, this is a story of a previously successful private developer borrowing hundreds of millions from banks while recieving tax breaks from the state government specifically to inflate the prices of real estate oversupply.

The collateral for the loans? Real estate oversupply with inflated prices.

I'd also like to point out how the state government (dominated by the GOP) directly subsidized the already wealthy development company to the point where the state would be losing money on the deal.

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The Kitchen Staff

Jay Bookman at the AJC interviews an anonymous restaurant owner whose business is going to be smacked by Georgia's new immigration law. While the anonymous subtext may threaten the credibility of the interview in some people's eyes, as a former member of the service industry caste, the entire scenario is far more than plausible.

Hell, I've had the same conversation with dyed in the wool Republican small business owners. My position on illegal immigration has always been to start with the businesses who hire workers illegally. Sorry. I know it will cause a lot of people a lot of problems. I know a lot of good folks who might go out of business because of the rapidity of change.

But there's political power to be gained by demagouging this populist issue. The problem with an unstable or unpredictable policy is that you can't plan for it. You can only react to the facts on the ground. For a restaurant owner, where margin is everything, you go with the most dependable employee you can get on staff for the lowest price. Guess who fit that mold for the last decade or so?

But that leaves you vulnerable to the politics. A lot of folks have exploited the xenophobia for a long time, without having to actually fix a problem. At the same time, a lot of folks have exploited the marginal lives most illegal immigrants maintain in this country - hidden away from legal protections and workplace laws.

The bottom line as I see it? Illegal immigration hurts this nation's economy, it hurts those who immigrate here legally and illegally, it creates unsustainable economic conditions, it kneecaps development in home countries, and no one has been able to do anything effective about any of it. Now, as the previous status quo changes to a different ineffective policy, you'll have shocking changes full of unintended consequences. Unscrupulous business owners won't really change, they'll just find new and exciting ways to keep cutting corners. Those who try to do right by their employees and keep their businesses afloat are the ones who will get hammered in the middle.

Build all the walls you want, if there are jobs here folks will find a way around them. Deport all the illegals you want, if there are jobs here folks will replace them faster than you can get rid of them. Harass them all you want, you'll only kneecap your own businesses who depend on paying low wages to make their margins. Throw in the added luxury of curbing civil liberties so undermanned and undertrained authorities can participate in enforcement. Hell of a policy we've got going on here.

But the writing has been on the wall for quite some time. As soon as you lose the protection of the developers (and their money and connections) where most illegals were employed during the "boom" years, they're going to come after the agriculture and hospitality industries. As they now will. And they aren't going to go about it out of some deep seated desire for justice - this isn't about respect for the law, this is about winning elections and controlling political donations.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On South Carolina

The college football offseason would be shorter for me if all the team previews read a little more like this.

(HT: The Senator's always essential Wednesday Morning Buffet.

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MOAR ROADS PLZ!

By passing a $0.01 sales tax referendum, voters in heavily conservative Cherokee County will get a lot of infrastructure improvements, mostly centered around widening their own roads.

Roads that will, of course, increase development opportunities, increasing residences, and increasing cars on the roads. Not to mention how badly it ties the exurban county to gasoline prices.

But whatever, it is their money and their time. If they want to spend that money on gasoline for their cars and they want to spend their time sitting in traffic, that's up to them.

Two things though:

I don't want to hear complaints from these folks when gasoline prices go up. Y'all chose where to live and how to live, and y'all chose those long commutes.

I think that tying these folks' vote into the regional transportation plan is folly. If they don't want to pay for their new roads, let them not have new roads and put the funds elsewhere. It is time we start letting the suburbs and exurbs pay their own damn way in this country.

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The Not-So-Funny Farm

So, if the GOP nominates one of their two (nominally) reality-based candidates for President, and that candidate loses to Obama, there is an expectation that the GOP will really lose it.

But a win by one of their reality-based candidates will return the GOP from the alternate dimension in which they currently reside, as will the defeat of a reality-denial candidate (the rest of the GOP presidential field).

Really?

I've got a couple of questions:

1) At this point, how much worse can the reality-denial get? Seriously consider the ramifications of a large, well armed segment of the United States population becoming more paranoid, more extreme, and more distrustful of any information contrary to their own self-perpetuating world view.

2) How will the GOP become more reasonable if one of the two their reality based candidates is elected President by winning a primary election in which they are forced by their own base to deny reality? The deniers will become emboldened, and think all the nonsense they have engaged over the last four years was effective. That's like giving a toddler a cookie for throwing a tantrum.

3) Is the reality-basis for American narrative really determined by individual campaigns? Think about how effective reality-deniers and historical-revisionists have been already in terms of policy: our nation is currently discussing the dismantling of Medicare, permanent occupation of Iraq and Afganistan, engaging in another war with Iran, resegregating schools based on parental ability, rolling back the medical decisions of women, paying oil companies to raise the prices of gasoline and poison our food and water, and gutting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - and these are all the parts of the right's platform currently considered "reality-based." Where, exactly, do we go from there in terms of policy? They don't need a candidate to say they support those things, their party branding and primary success makes it nearly implicit that they do.

And the crazy thing is - and the thing most "liberals" and "progressives" and "Democrats" never seem to realize - the GOP is winning all of those arguments with the voters because they aren't really worried about candidates, they're worried about marketing a specific narrative until enough people buy into it.

And the power of getting people to buy into a narrative beats reality every single time.

(HT: Andrew Sullivan.)

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Well Played, Sir.

I'm jealous that we don't have politicians that can give these sorts of speeches anymore. This is the kind of speech with the capacity to actually change hearts and minds. The "real democracy" ad-lib was especially nice.

When Irish Ties Are Smiling

The White House protocol folks in the early days of the administration may have screwed up with the gifts to the British government, but whoever's running the show now got the Ireland visit just right.

And I'll be needing one of those t-shirts for 2012.

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4th Amendment?

What 4th Amendment?

The case ultimately reached the Indiana Supreme Court, which ruled last week that current "public policy" is not conducive to resisting entry because civil protections have arisen to mitigate the threats of pre-industrial prison life -- threats like indefinite detention, violence or disease from unclean, overcrowded facilities.

The court reasoned that since those things are no longer of concern (even though they are), Indiana should not permit citizens to resist unlawful police entry, which they saw as having the potential to cause an escalation of violence toward officers.


The decision (PDF).

This reminds me of Arizona's Jan Crow laws - where police are able to stop anyone anytime and demand to see their papers proof of United States citizenship.

So now police in some of the several states have the ability to check someone's identification (and prove some cause later) and to enter someone's home without a warrant (and prove some cause later). Which isn't terribly different from what came before, but now has explicit legal allowance to do so. Why is it so difficult for some individuals to envision the intended and unintended consequences of such allowances?

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Not Justice

This is not justice, or anything that appears to be justice. Multiple murders, multiple rapes, completely random victims in the neighborhood, evading police for weeks.

Of course this individual appears incapable of helping in his own defense. From a moral standpoint, however, mental incapacity only goes so far.

This seems to me more a decision on the part of the criminal justice system in New Orleans to not bring this case before a jury, because they are afraid such a system that we have will not be considered credible enough to land a conviction for these crimes. Better the accused receive treatment now with a chance of conviction later.

At least, I can only hope that is the case; that the reevaluation to come will allow a trial to proceed. What I fear is that this system wants to wait until the crimes aren't so fresh; that the victims have moved away to safer places; that the outcry is not so loud. That way, they can just turn him lose back on a neighborhood, and hope someone there takes care of the problem for them.

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Right-Wingery

What's the difference between the reality-denying American Right Wing and the Republican Party?

One controls the other. Can you figure out which way it goes? I'll just leave this right here next to this.

Update: Oh, and we can't forget this.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Refighting the Past

You're never really done with legislation. You're never really done with human freedom or civil rights. Once you think you have them, there will always be someone who wants to try and roll them back. The price for freedom is eternal vigilance in so many definitions of the word.

Sometimes that vigilance means keeping your eyes open when the guy next to you in the subway keeps trying to light a fuse in his jacket. Other times that vigilance requires you to keep people from re-writing history to move political goal posts today.

The ongoing battle over the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - and yes I said ongoing because we aren't really done with it - got another boost with Ron Paul recently. While liberals and progressives stand around shocked to find out that people will actually say in public that they don't support the CRA (and are more shocked to find out these individuals still command political support), the forces of revisionism are hard at work to justify such political beliefs.

And it works. Remember folks, "the free market didn't enforce segregation, the government enforced segregation." Or that's the narrative, at least.

While hardly all-in with this narrative (like the Pauls), Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway comes dangerously close to rationalizing it.

Racial segregation in the South wasn’t a product of the free market, it was the product of a state imposing racial prejudices under the threat of criminal prosecution.


"Big Government" strikes again? Hardly.

While this article's explorations of SCOTUS decisions kneecapping the 14th Amendment in the Slaughterhouse Cases of 1873 (involving New Orleans) and the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 are quite valuable, I take issue with the idea that,

different outcome in The Slaughterhouse Cases and The Civil Rights Cases, the entire system of mandated racial segregation known as Jim Crow would have been under direct legal assault at the time of it’s birth.


There's a big concern I have with saying things like that. You see, Jim Crow was under legal assault from the time of its birth - The Civil Rights cases represented the first wave of such assaults, and Plessy vs. Ferguson represented the second wave. What we also know from our history is that these robust legal assaults, as well as others, failed.

An argument that:

So, as a philosophical matter, the Pauls are both correct that the state should not have the authority to tell businesses who they can choose as customers.


Is a almost an identical argument used by the Supreme Court to strike down the Civil Rights Act of 1875. And look what that philosophical matter got us - nearly 100 more years of Jim Crow and ongoing Jim Crow legacy today.

This issue is another place where I take exception with "libertarianism," even as I have my own robust blue libertarian streak of cynical distrust of the government.

Sorry folks, I. Live. In. The. South. Down here, you can't go six months without some popular politician reminding folks the importance of "state's rights" to ignore Federal laws (like the CRA) or complaining that all redistricting has to go through Justice Department approval in the same breath that carries discussions of diluting or off-loading minority voting strength.

Segregation and Jim Crow were state government mandates, free-market mandates, and cultural mandates all wrapped up in one. Businesses were getting subsidies and contributing to political campaigns back in the day just as much as they are today. As a matter of fact, that era is often described as the "good ole days" before all the "government regulations" came in and "ruined business." One wonders if more regular health inspections are the "government regulations" being discussed...

Should we even talk about the social stigma that would be ascribed to businesses that served "mixed" clientele during that time? After all, once schools and businesses were legally forced to integrate, white people fled to the suburbs and exurbs. There, they spent time socially engineering their own communities far away from the cities and the colored folks. They didn't have to go to school, shop with, or hire the colored folks if there ain't no colored folks around. And yet, the government doesn't interfere with their right to do so. As a matter of fact, it subsidizes the ability to self-segregate, by subsidizing road construction and oil exploration.

I think about all those free market forces at work when I drive through New Orleans East, an area where 71,000 people live where there's only ONE grocery store. Guess what race most of the residents there are.

The author sums up my whole opinion on the CRA in his closing:

by the time the 1964 Civil Rights Act came into being the distinction between private and public behavior under Jim Crow was a hard line to draw, especially when social pressure by Southern whites made it virtually impossible for any business owner who didn’t want to discriminate against blacks from doing so. The only way to bring down the whole system, a system that arguably might not have existed if the 14th Amendment hadn’t been virtually gutted in the latter years of the 19th Century, was to use the authority of the Federal Government to do so.


So, yeah, you could say that I don't mind "Big Government" robustly enforcing the 14th Amendment through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While it may be philosophically OK to think that parts of the CRA are coercive in nature, and a little bit of overreach on the part of the government, I only wished we lived in a society so perfect that we didn't need a government to make sure doors of opportunity are open to all citizens. Until we get to that More Perfect Union, I don't mind "Big Government" telling people interested in starting a business that they will be unable to segregate based on race, creed, or color if they would like to do business in the United States. We ain't yet far enough removed from the bad ole days yet.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Credibility, the Final Frontier

Every time I think that the American Right, Talk-Radio, Fox News, and rank and file Republicans can't get any further from reality, they simply pick up their things and keep marching on. To explore new memes and new rationalizations. To boldy go where no mainstream political party has gone before.

At this point, their credibility is so far in the red (literally and figureatively) that it will take some serious consideration on my part to even entertain listening to Republican candidates, because they are are part of an organization where the national leaders who didn't stop with blatantly attempting to lie their way through the issues, but who are attempting to wholly rewrite history.

And not just early American history, or Civil War history, or history from the pre-Reagan 20th Century - but all American history, including parts thorough which I lived. They're now telling me that things I remember happening did not actually happen.

On Thursday, I thought the President delivered a fairly ho-hum speech, full of platitutdes and same-old, same-old. I remember every President since Clinton working on this issue in almost the exact same way. Reading actual history about the Middle East Peace Process, it appeared (up until Thursday on Fox News) that American Presidents have been working on these goals for quite some time.

So color me stunned to see the reaction on the right. Y'all, this is simply insane demagougery, the coup de grace of the "Barack Hussein Obama is an Un-American Muslim Mau-Mau" narrative.

Which means their narrative, right now, stands at this:


I am an America-hating, baby-killing, terrorist-sympathizer who, with help from my illegal immigrant friends and union thugs, will follow our Mau Mau illegitimately elected Kenyan anti-colonialist President to turn this nation into a communist economy with a sharia legal code that follows the homosexual agenda in an unholy alliance of secular atheist Islamic fundamentalists even as we work to destroy the state of Israel.


That is what the GOP is saying about people like me and people I want to see elected. From the top national candidates to the local police bureaucracy. But that's OK, they aren't intended to be factual statements and if we quote the actual words they say we are the ones who are lying. That makes it OK for me to believe them about taxes, infrastructure, and the deficit?

Face it, folks, the American right has now joyfully taken up the full moonbat status of the old "looney left," who used to expose all Democrats to paint from the insanity brush. The shoe is firmly on the other foot now.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Middle East, Condensed

You're doubtlessly hearing a great deal of bullshit today from the right wing and the Israeli Prime Minister (who himself might as well be part of the American right wing).

For any confusions you might have, please refer to Jay Bookman's write up in the AJC. This fantastic piece lays out what is really at stake and why, from an American point of view. Meanwhile, Yossi Klein Halevi at The New Republic looks at the same problem from the dualist Israeli view. (HT: Andrew Sullivan)

Both are essential, reality-based reads about a complex problem and the President's speech from yesterday, free of the disgusting demagougery and political goal-post moving you are currently seeing from the American right-wing.

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An Adult Problem

Like so many School Boards and School Systems across this country, students get to deal with the mess the adults make of things.

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The VP Field

Charlie at Peach Pundit asks Is Newt Gingrich learning?

A candidate that mastered the use of the media against his political opponents when in the House minority was reduced do whining about liberal media after self inflicting wounds.


And that's a primarily Republican Georgia website. Which should tell you about where Newt's stock is this week. So much for the Idea Man.

Meanwhile, back on the left, Mark Mosely at The Lens scours the GOP's "Action" Man.

Jindal argued that volcano monitoring (and, implicitly, stream monitoring) should be cut from the bill because it is “wasteful spending.” He explicitly contrasted these programs with other (unnamed) programs in the bill that “make sense.” Jindal wasn’t merely mocking a potentially worthy program because it was misplaced in a stimulus bill, he was mocking it as an example of a bogus priority. Government should cut its spending, rather invest $140 million to monitor volcanoes (and floods).


Because why on Earth would Louisiana need to monitor floods? (HT: Jeffery.)

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Wild Narrative Appears

Following up on last week's flop daring ALL BLACK RAPPERS ARE SCARY THUGS!, Right Wing Studios is set to release an even bigger pile of crap Summer Action Flick.

PIRATES OF THE MIDDLE EAST IV: ON ISRAELI SIDES

This newest installment of the classic franchise has the chance to top the Fox Box Office all summer. Even if you don't want to, you're guaranteed to see it again and again and again!

This film has been rated BS by the Reality Based Association of America.

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9.9% Problems

Charlie at Peach Pundit wins the Understatement of the Week Award:

Georgia still has massive structural economic problems in housing and banking which are limiting recovery.


Yes. Those problems are housing "supply" far outstripping housing "demand," while the banks are still heavily invested in getting the projected return on their financing of the oversupply.

Thus, you have a bumper crop of overpriced homes that no one can afford to buy in the first place, notwithstanding the fact that the banks' money was already lended to developers to build those overpriced homes. And don't even get me started on how the developers increased their profit margins by paying illegal immigrants pennies on the dollar to get the overpriced oversupply built as cheaply as possible.

What happens when you use fake money to build too many homes that cost too much while kneecapping your own working population with illegal hiring practices? Well, then only developers could afford the tens of thousands of homes they were building, and those developers were paying with credit futures based on the belief those homes being occupied at asking price.

Eventually, you reach a point where you have to look at the house of cards that existed before and thank your lucky stars unemployment only got to 10.1% statewide, and that it coming down to 9.9% so soon is an economic miracle. For a GOP controlled state swearing fealty to the almighty invisible hand of the free market, they sure do complain a lot when that hand slaps them in the face.

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The Sacrifice

Owen Courreges at Uptown Messenger tracks the latest national media narrative concerning New Orleans.

[T]he media has been presenting this event as a matter of the Atchafalaya Basin being flooded to save New Orleans. This is a narrative we’ve all heard before – that others are unfairly made to sacrifice for flood-prone New Orleans. We heard it time and time again after Hurricane Katrina from those naysayers who argued that we shouldn’t rebuild.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

If You Thought the Roads Were Bad...

Someone needs to remind Ron Paul that, as taxpaying citizens of the United States, the victims of the Mississippi River flood have built their own levees.

(HT: Library Chronicles)

This is where libertarianism fails for me as an effective government policy. The Mississippi River affects people from Montana to New York. It affects commerce all throughout the center of the country. When you dam the river to provide power for the cold nights in North Dakota, Louisiana loses coastal land; when heavy snows melt in the Midwest, people in Mississippi are flooded out of their homes.

All you have to do to see this won't work is to examine the dysfunction that accompanied the Georgia/Alabama/Florida water wars over the Chattahoochie River. Those states are still trying to work something out themselves, and will be back at one another's throats when the drought comes back.

You want to see a nighmare scenario on the Mississippi River? Let's throw that back to the states and tell them to figure it out themselves with their own budgets and their own contractors. Welcome back to the 19th Century of each state and each port having its own tax system for river traffic (driving up costs and corruption) and the killings that will go on as agents from each state go after each other's levees to relieve pressure on their own.

The Mississippi River is a national resource and trade network. River management is a national concern. The response to the USACoE's areas of insufficiency is to address those problems within the one agency, not to create a bunch of state agencies with the same insufficiencies and less resources to deal with it.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

High Cost of the War on Drugs

Someday, I hope someone can explain to me why, in a legitimate and compelling way, this is a worthwhile expenditure of tax dollars. I hope someone will explain why that is a priority.

Because I drove over crumbling roads to work in a city filled with blighted houses and at-risk schools in a state where people's homes are being intentionally flooded by the government so other people's homes don't flood accidentally.

And I hope my brother will recognize that this is what I'm talking about when I say that drug policy in this country is an absolute but expensive failure.

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This one isn't the tax man's fault...

A solar farm in Charleston Township, Michigan is claiming they're losing money because of property taxes. FTA:
The property tax issue has been the one surprise in the whole solar farm venture, according to Field, “It never crossed my mind that the property taxes would become a significant obstacle to our success. I thought it was all kinds of other things. We didn’t know whether our design was going to work or whether the location was a good location or so many things,” [Sam Field, part owner of solar farm] said.

W
T
F
?

No, you're not losing money because of property taxes. You're losing money because you're an idiot. Are you telling me that nobody in that solar farm project ever thought, "Hey, we have to pay property taxes on the land we're using to run our business." It took me all of 3 minutes to find the tax assessor's page for Charleston Township. They could've easily looked up property tax info before starting their business.

Also FTA:
“On a level playing field, I’m convinced more than ever that solar is going to prevail and carry the day,” [Field] said.


You have a level playing field. Your company pays taxes just like everyone else.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mo' Money Mo' Choices

This.

Think of all the ideas put forth during the health care "debate" about how everybody should try to get the best "deal" on their care. That presumes that people (who are sick, by the way) have time to call doctor after doctor and hassle office manager after office manager for prices on stuff, and I don't know about you, but my doctor's office generally acts like money doesn't exist, so trying to get them to show me the price tag is an all-day endeavor.


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Flood Panels (continued)

This weekend, decisions were made. In Louisiana, the US Army Corps of Engineers doesn't need to blow up levees along the Mississippi River, because there are already flood control structures in place to handle the overflow.

For the Bonne Carre spillway, this decision is easier made. Water flows from the River into Lake Pontchartrain. This might raise the level of the lake a few feet, causing some problems to those who live in low lying areas. It also affects the fisheries, as that much freshwater can change the habitats of lake and sea life very rapidly. When making the call between threatening the levees and industrial infrastructure downriver, that's not a difficult choice to make. The Bonne Carre has been open for some time now.

But those costs are minor ones compared to the opening of the Morganza. The Morganza spills Mississippi River water into the Atchafalaya River, and into communities that aren't as well-protected as Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The water is going to back up tributaries and bayous significantly (as it did on the Mississippi far upriver) and flood a lot of homes even far away from the banks of the river.

Hence the long wait to open Morganza. Not only did the USACoE have to give those people time to evacuate, or protect their property with sandbags, but it had to make a case that leaving the Mississippi River flowing at its current volume could do massive damage to Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and the nation's shipping and oil refining infrastructure. With a flood this big, it doesn't really matter how strong the levees are in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Those costs were weighed both ways, and the decision was made. Morganza opened this weekend. Acadiana is preparing for high water, again, and Louisiana is preparing to bear the brunt of high human costs associated with flooding.

The political implications boil my blood. Demagouges and populist sentiment won't wait long to point out that rural communities in "Real America" were sacrificed for cities and "elites" as if that makes any sort of sense in Louisiana's case. The same people would be screaming about the high price of gasoline if the refineries were allowed to flood for a month. There will - of course - be a racial undertone to it, as insidious as that is. I've already heard the phrase "President Obama Doesn't Care About White People," in reference to Kanye West's infamous response to flooding after Hurricane Katrina.

But what won't be talked about - again - is why this is happening. Why is the river flooding so badly up and down the Mississippi River? Why did decisions like this have to be made? How can our current infrastructure and zoning be made to more effectively mitigate this sort of thing? Why did most flooding come from tributaries? Why is the Louisiana coast disappearing? Why are areas so much more prone to flooding today?

Because - pay attention - this is what it looks like when the system we currently have works. This is the plan. This is our nation's cost of doing business the same way we always have. Two observations come from that:

One - if you think this cost too much, imagine if the system wasn't working as planned. I'll give you a hint, it would be 2005 flooding expensive.

Two - if you want a better flood control policy in this country, it is going to cost a lot of long term money. You have to weigh that against long-term costs.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Fistful of Meh

In 1994 Republicans swept into control of the House and Senate. They held onto this power for over a decade. Yet somehow with all of the momentum in the world they completely and totally muffed the 1996 Presidential election. Part of that was a brilliant populist move by Clinton to actually push popular portions of conservatism. Part of that was Bob Dole, the guy whose face is in the dictionary next to the word "meh."

If Republicans think they'll ride anti-Obama sentiment into an easy 2012 Presidential election win, they're sadly mistaken. I saw the Republican debate on Fox a few nights ago. Most of those guys could give Dole a run for the money in the meh category. As far as I'm concerned my primary vote is Ron Paul's to lose. He's ideologically consistent and the places where I disagree with him most are on issues I think he has no shot at actually implementing. But even he didn't bowl me over.

It looks like I'm not alone in the underwhelmed department. But what interests me more than the apathy is what exactly Republican voters are looking for. It seems if you ask 10 of them, you'll get 12 different answers. The only thing I can gather from this is that we don't know exactly what we want but we know this isn't it. That's not a good environment for a Party to have going into the Presidential elections.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Credibility Gap Widens

From the same people that brought you the terrifying GROUND ZERO MOSQUE, the thrilling KENYAN ANTI-COLONIALISM, and 2009's storytelling masterpiece, DEATH PANELS FOR GRANDMA, comes this May's Blockbuster Culture War Hit:

ALL BLACK RAPPERS ARE SCARY THUGS!

Follow Sarah Palin, Warrior Princess, and Karl Rove, Boy Genius, as they take the fight to those who seek to destroy gentle, homogenous American culture.

This summer in the GOP, COMMON is just a little too close to COMMUNIZM!


This film has been rated BS by the Reality Based Association of America.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fighting Back

I'm just going to leave this right here next to this.

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Disaster Politics

Unsurprisingly, there are a few individuals (mostly website comment trolls) who consider themselves on "the left," who are taking the opportunity of the Tornado disasters and Mississippi River flooding to oversimplify the political beliefs of Southerners and write us all off as Tea Partiers demanding smaller government. By virtue of our assumed collective hatred for TEH SOCIALIZMS of disaster recovery, they think we should live our values now and not ask for any Federal aid. Viewing the South through such a lens, they then descend into "blame the victim" territory so ably applied by their political rivals.

Beyond the fact that their finger-wagging is an absolute failure of narrative building (at which they simply are not prepared to compete with the right), they end up running into other folks on "the left" who despise the concepts of collective blame, political marketing, and false equivalence.

Folks with more crediblity are ready to stop them in their tracks:

Hating on the South in the comments for voting Republican will get you banned, permanently. I'm in no mood.


Thanks for that.

It also got me thinking. Most importantly, disasters don't check your voter registration before they come crashing through the door. Anyone, anywhere. There but for the Grace of God go I.

But there are apparently plenty of folks who do concern themselves with the voting patterns of Southerners as it relates to the current state of disaster. Not that it should matter, but look at this map alongside the one of where flooding is the worst. Look at the 2008 election returns in Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties in Alabama.

Which way did the disaster victims vote, again? And, again, why does it matter?

I hesitate to bring that up. The chorus of "why do you live by a river" is already warming up in the national narrative, and I'm sure there are plenty of right wing elements who are going to use the "handouts" to flood victims and anecdotes of government ineffectiveness in their own states in order to raise some political capital for the next election. I'd expect the same demagougery from Democratic or "liberal" elements as well. Same as it ever was.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Flood Panels

You remember "Death Panels?" They were fake.

But Flood Panels actually do exist, and they decide whose property gets flooded and whose doesn't. And they do it all with your tax dollars.

Maybe if the people who got all riled up about the fake Death Panels came back to reality for 5 minutes and thought about our nation's very real Flood Panels, we might actually get a sane flood control policy in this country.

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Running Back Publicity, LLC

Well, if the whole sports thing doesn't work out for Washaun Ealey and Reggie Bush, at least they can always turn to mass communication and public relations.

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Streetcars & Cash Money

Owen Courreges at Uptown Messenger seems to think New Orleans is making unsound financial sense and living in the past by building new streetcars.

He uses Houston, TX as an example of how investing in light rail hasn't made a return on investment. Since folks who live in New Orleans seem almost contractually obligated to compare NOLA's decision making processes to those in Houston or Atlanta, I'll go with the devil I know and bring up the ATL. Here's part of my comment:

But when it comes to the capital costs of building and maintaining roads vs. streetcar lines, let us not kid ourselves – the fantasy land cost-benefit analyses come into play with roads.

Y’all may not be used to it in New Orleans, but I come from a place where no one ever saw a road project they didn’t like. In this land of massive concrete projects the pitiance of the gasoline tax doesn’t make a dent in the DOT budget – when a gasoline tax exists at all.

As far as streetcars are concerned, they will really provide the return on investment when gasoline runs up over $5 per gallon, and people are looking for alternatives.

Mass transit ridership increased 14% even in auto centric Atlanta the last time gas was over $4 a gallon. As prices continue to rise due to increased demand, you can expect more folks to ride transit, and buses to cost more.

You can also expect the politicians, fearing voter backlash over high gasoline prices, to gut road and transportation budgets as they fall over themselves lowering gas taxes so they can appear to be doing something about a problem they cannot control.

We can invest now and benefit, or we can invest later when it costs far more to do so.


You know what transportation budgets are often first to see the axe? Mass transit. You know what happens when you cut access to mass transit? Low ridership and less return on investment. The thing I don't understand is cutting back on transit precisely at the time it is needed most by American commuters.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Republican Change I Can Believe In

Louisiana School Board members having to serve as substitute teachers in their systems?

Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes.

Hell, I don't even think the bill goes far enough.

One day a month substitute teaching whenever school is in session. At the most at-risk public schools. At least.

And it should be every single elected state official. Don't just stop at School Board members. The governor and the legislators and, yes, even judges - they should all get a chance to see what consequences their decisions have on the children of this state.

And to the business man who doesn't want to do it? Choice words. Elections have consequences, after all.

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Change I Still Believe In

I've been pretty plain in that I don't think the successful OBL operation had anything to do with George W. Bush's time as Presdient any more than it had to do with Clinton's.

The foregin policy this nation has (so far) engaged under the Obama Administration is far from perfect. But it is a tremendous positive change from what we faced under the last administration, and it has accomplished far more in two and a half years than Bush accomplished in 8.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Small Government at Work

You know why I don't trust the "Small Government" concept of political management? Contractors. If you operate on the premise that you can "run government like a business" and that "government can't manage things correctly," then it makes sense that one of the ways you deliver public services to the community is to set out a bid for a contract, and go with the lowest bidder for the services.

On its face, this appears to shrink the government and save the taxpayers money.

In practice, however, it leads to nonsense like New Orleans' traffic camera fiasco.*

In this case, an external entity has convinced a government officials to purchase their services in an effort to raise revenue for the government budget under the guise of increasing safety. This is an incredibly unpopular program that would likely be voted down if offered up on a referendum, and has been the subject of many lawsuits. To legally administer the program while protecting the city from litigation raised by the program requires measures that have led to the suspensions of high level police officials who were part of the "clean up corruption" regime.

This happens because the program is ripe for corruption, and even the most above-board administration appears dirty when you've got this much money made from a low political risk program that delivers nearly unchallengeable verdicts regarding an almost indefensible crime. (Disclaimer: I've been caught by one of these cameras.)

My problem is that the city shouldn't be making money in this way, and shouldn't be depending on revenue generated. As Mark points out:

Even if you buy into the idea that the cameras are more about safety than revenues, it still doesn’t make sense for a city to rely on revenues from scofflaws. If the cameras DO actually change driving behavior, as proponents suggest, then these traffic camera revenues will decline over time anyway, as people drive more safely. That creates an incentive for the city to install ever more cameras to overcome the decline in ticket funds.


If the program's big proponents are defending it because the city will lose money if it is terminated, then you see the only reason we have this program. And it ain't public safety. It is about a snake-oil solution to a problem no one wants to face politically.

The better idea, it seems to me, is for this city to fix its incredible revenue problems as well as the city's unbelievable spending problems. Because, like most governments, this city has both problems in abundance.

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* Which is not to be confused with the non-revenue generating New Orleans crime camera fiasco. That wasn't about public safety, either.

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Flood History

It is a shame that with almost every problem that faces the United States, our nation has already dealt with a similar problem in the past. At some point between then and now, we've either willfully forgotten the lessons or fallen prey to the snake-oil salesmen who convinces us that his medicine works the best.

Has it occurred to anyone why we have problems with flooding in this country? John Barry penned a must-read Saturday Essay in the WSJ on April 30 to describe, in layman's terms, what is going on here. (HT: YRHT)

Some of the questions Barry takes a crack at:

1. Why do all these people live in danger of flooding, and can't they just move somewhere else?

2. When did this become the Federal government's problem? What group of socialists decided that the government should be in the flood control business?

3. When did African-Americans abandon the Republican Party?

4. How do decisions made in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota end up contributing to massive property damage in Louisiana?

5. What kind of person lives in flood-prone areas and doesn't have flood insurance?

6. If the USACoE know how to build better levees, why don't they do it?

Of course, you can find more detailed answers to most of these questions by reading Barry's book, Rising Tide, but actual US history may not be compatible with an already made-up mind.

Update: Oh, here are a few ideas.

(HT: EJ)

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Sunday, May 08, 2011

No Drive List

I guess we now have the theme for Security Theater Season 2.

Anyone want to guess what Season 3 might have in store?

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Flood

Jerz and I have often spoken of government waste over the years.

Is anyone ready to start questioning why the best plan available to the Midwest and South is to blow up the levees?

I mean, if you have to destroy something and cause a catastrophe in order to escape and even bigger catastrophe, what does that tell you?

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Not Exactly News

I'm glad someone finally did a study to prove Chris Rock was right.

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Friday, May 06, 2011

Dozens

Two questions:

1) Do the majority of Muslims in the world really hate America?
2) How does the American media inadvertently make the case that they do?

Case Study.

We knew that, after the death of Osama bin Laden, there would be some individuals in the world who would take that opportunity to rally other discontented individuals against the United States. This is how attention-seekers get their attention: they do things they know the cameras will catch and broadcast. They know such things will overstate their importance.

Most of all, they know that if even one American flag is burned in the streets of Pakistan, then many Americans will go on to assume that represents all Pakistanis' opinions. The "Death to America" narrative is fed. This is all part of the "clash of civilizations" feedback loop that we can't seem to break.

Consider the article. If you look at the pictures associated with the story (on the front page of MSNBC when I opened my computer) you saw a crowd burning American flags. The story text itself shows a sunglasses-clad individual pointing an accusing finger at the camera.

Even the text is designed to further the narrative:

Muslims in the Philippines, Indonesia and Pakistan protested Friday over the killing of Osama bin Laden, with one cleric vowing the holy war against the U.S. "will not stop with the death of Osama."


Muslims protested. Not "individuals sympathetic to al-Queda." Not "Islamists," or "Fundamentalists," or even "disaffected citizens of." Nope. These people are Muslims, that's all the American people need (or want) to know about the protesters. I bet the same news outlet will later have a poll asking why viewers tend to think all Muslims are terrorists.

I think America would have a completely different view of religion and the clash of civilizations if a religious affiliation was included every time something unpopular happened. Or every single time there was a crime. Imagine it:

"Christian politician leaves wife with cancer, marries mistress."

"Christians protest at funerals of dead US soldiers in opposition to United States civil rights laws."

"Christian teens beat transsexual woman in McDonalds."

"Christians hold mock trial against Koran, burn Muslim holy book after guilty verdict."

"Major drug bust: Christians apprehended with twenty pounds of cocaine in hidden compartment."

"Meth Lab Discovered, 4 Christians arrested."


Could you imagine the outrage that would come from that? It would be incredible, especially among the mainstream Christian population, who would go to great lengths to prove that they were not affiliated with such behaviors. There is a great deal of social construct dedicated to describing deviant social groups or progress-resistant behaviors as "other." That's why the media and popular culture uses such terms as fundamentalist and controversial when describing certain Christian out-groups. That's also why the religion of crime perpetrators are never part of the story unless the accused adheres to an "exotic" religion which is already a group considered "other." Or if the accused is a pastor or leadership figure in a mainstream Christian organization.

Muslims in America have no such social protections, so it is very easy to attribute unpopular behaviors with Muslims generally. This does not help our nation understand the true problems our nation is facing, and allows our popular culture to set up a too-easy scapegoat to deflect self-criticism.

Back to the case study, from just those images and the headlines, one might be led to believe that huge crowds were gathered around the Muslim world condemning America. But here's what you would miss:

In Manila, Philippine police used anti-riot shields to stop a march on the U.S. Embassy by dozens of Muslims.


Emphasis mine.

Dozens, hunh?

While "dozens" might be a news-worthy protest in my hometown (population 12,000ish), the Phillippines are a nation of approximately 98,000,000 individuals, with 5% claiming Islam as their primary religion. So, out of an approximate population of 4,850,000 Phillipino Muslims, a few dozen protest in the capital city of over 11,550,000 residents, and it makes front-page news in America.

A few more protesters showed up in Pakistan, though. At least here we have some attempt to address the actual situation, and the actual identity of the protesters.

In Pakistan, about 1,500 people protested, saying more figures like bin Laden would arise to wage holy war against the United States.

Predominantly Muslim Pakistan has yet to see any major backlash after U.S. special forces killed bin Laden early on Monday.

But his death has angered Islamists, with one major hardline political party calling on Pakistan's government to end its support for the U.S. war on militancy.


Again, the 1,500 number exists in relationship to a nation of 187,000,000 people, of which 97% are Muslims. You'll note the headlines do not read:

While some individuals protested US action against Osama bin Laden within thier country, 181,388,500 Pakistani Muslims were busy doing something else.


So are there really widespread protests that required media attention, or did elements of the American media expect to report on protests and then find some small events to justify the story?

Bonus question: Now that some small groups have proven they can get worldwide attention through these actions, will other groups begin to behave in such ways as well?

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The Future of Retail

Pat's Sbarro post got my noodle turning on retail. Around the turn of the century two relatively new forms of brick and mortar retail emerged: the power center and the lifestyle center. Both are squarely aimed at enclosed mall customers. And between the two they've successfully killed of enclosed mall construction.

You'll know a power center when you see it. I don't have any good pictures because quite frankly they usually look like parking garages. They don't usually flaunt an identity. I had to do some searching to find out the one in Buckhead is called Buckhead Station. There's also one in Dallas near Northpark Mall. The basic idea is that you take several big box retail stores and build a parking garage connecting them all. There will also usually be a small smattering of inline stores, but nothing like you'll find in a typical enclosed mall corridor. A power center is more or less a strip mall of big box stores.

The lifestyle center is a descendant of the outdoor mall. The idea is to make a mall look like a downtown area. You have your shops lined up and your parking right in front of the store but in reality you're never going to find a spot in front of the store and will instead have to park somewhere behind the "downtown" area. Here are some better shots of Southlake Town Square which I mentioned in Pat's Sbarro post. You can see in photo 9 how the parking lots are not easily visible from the street areas.

Southlake's arrangement is somewhat unique in that it really is their town square now. Other lifestyle centers like The Avenue at Forsyth (GA), The Forum at Peachtree Corners (GA), or Firewheel (TX) don't have the downtown amenities but do have the outdoor greenspace and greater variety of stores (compared to modern enclosed malls).

Even enclosed malls are adopting some elements of the lifestyle center. An outdoor dining entertainment area has been built in place of dead anchors in malls such as Perimeter Mall (GA) and Cumberland Mall (GA). Mall of Georgia was built with an outdoor area with greenspace, a group of outdoor stores, and outdoor access to the enclosed mall stores that border the open area.

It's interesting to me that we've gone back outside. Malls were enclosed for a reason. I really want to check out Southlake on a rainy Saturday to see if it has a noticeable impact on the shoppers, but it hasn't exactly rained much since I've been here. I'm also curious in Southlake's case of tying the downtown to the mall. Enclosed shopping malls have a terrible track record of enduring success. Most of them get a 10-20 year shot clock before falling apart. Many lifestyle centers are just passing a decade now. If they have the same shelf life as an enclosed mall, how will that affect the city of Southlake or any other city who has such a strategy?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Dead Malls & Bad Pizza

Or, Sbarro's.

I remember eating at Sbarro's once upon a time long ago. I remember eating various foods in malls long ago.

Hell, when I grew up even into my college years, a trip to the mall was the highlight of the weekend. You left your air conditioned home, got in an air conditioned car, drove several miles to a giant air conditioned building surrounded by a parking lot big enough to host a traveling county fair.

Though, as this unsustainable economic model has been proven unsustainable, it is no surprise that the businesses that depend on the mall-based, captive audience for their economic success are suffering.

Maybe they'll just blame the President for their economic woes, instead of the fact that their customers are taking their dollars elsewhere for different products in different locations.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Torture Worked!

Well, at least in the delusional fantasy land of make believe that affects most American right-wingers these days. Folks, here's where credibility is important.

The people who brought you "Not One Drop of Oil [Spilled Due to Gulf Hurricanes in 2005]" proudly present:

"Torture Years Ago Killed Osama Earlier This Week."

(This of course creates the offspring narrative: "George W. Bush Had Much More To Do With OBL's Apprehension than Barack Obama.")

And you know what? They're going to repeat this as much and as often as is necessary to convince the American media consumer that this nonsense is true. Just like they did with the "Not One Drop" narrative. This is how they work, after all: create a talking point and repeat it until enough people have heard it so often they assume it is true. And they do it very well.

It doesn't even matter how easily their arguments can be deconstructed (NSFW Image).

[A]lthough neither torture victim gave up the correct information, and one gave an entirely false lead, it was their refusal to tell the truth that proves torture worked! Seriously. It was the failure of torture to get accurate information that proves the validity of the torture!


Update: The only thing that has been proven right in this episode of American history are the folks who warned us that, once our popular culture embraces torture in such ways, it was only a matter of time before the uses of torture were officially expanded.

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Doing It Wrong

Moving to New Orleans and complaining about a music event makes about as much sense to me as moving to St. Simons Island and complaining about golf, sunny weather, and that pesky Atlantic Ocean thing that keeps interrupting your pleasant evening stroll when you venture too far east.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Cadaverism

Last night, it took the internet about 40 seconds to begin (jokingly) demanding to see OBL's "long form death certificate."

Of course, this only took about 12 hours to stop being a joke. Well, technically a joke.

SAWB's favorite unhinged leftist, Cindy Sheehan, chimes in to demand people "put away their flags and think."

She'll be teaming up with that paragon of right-wing credibility, Andrew Breitbart. But I'm sure all the national news organizations won't question it when he releases exclusive video of OBL in a pimp costume hiding out at ACORN world headquarters.

(HT: Andrew Sullivan)

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Another Reminder

Why would anyone think that agents of the US government might blow up levees and flood some areas in order to save others?

I haven't heard a satisfactory answer so far.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

The Culture You Have

Not the culture you wish you had.

I was running errands this morning, and heard Glenn Beck on the radio playing "Glenn-downer" about the spontaneous celebrations last night at the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed. He asked, "who are these college students?"

The United States Naval Academy has at least one answer to that.

But let us not kid ourselves, Glenn Beck isn't the only one asking about the appropriateness of celebrating a killing after what we saw last night. There are plenty who went out to cheer, and there are plenty who say today that the cheering was inappropriate.

Me? I find it hard to do either.

On the one hand, I would love to think this is a spontaneous outpouring of joy and thanks to our men and women in uniform - a preview of the ticker-tape parade, if you will. I think that is a lot of it, yes. Our veterans and those serving overseas have accomplished a great deal in those combat zones, often without the strategic or tactical support necessary for a war effort of this magnitude. They deserve a great deal of thanks and recognition for that, and they deserve to have their ears ringing with the cheers of their countrymen when they return home.

I wish I could just stop thinking about it there and leave it at that.

But I cannot. I read the words of those people chiding the exuberant behavior. I think about where our culture has gone and how this kind of reaction should be expected after all the rah-rah over the last 10 years. This past decade has seen our popular culture devolve into controversies over American flag lapel pins, ribbon stickers on cars, the competition between sporting events to see who can unfurl the biggest American flag at mid-field with the loudest and closest flyover. If you didn't participate in the "USA" chant, or wear red on Fridays, or display appropriate mourning over everything September 11th, your patriotism was in question. One of the greatest condemnations in the past 10 years has been the idea that someone might be "apologizing" for America by looking at the world from different points of view.

Those folks cheering, you have to try and see it through their eyes.

For the young folks at least - those college kids Glenn Beck was talking about - they were between 8 and 15 on September 11th. This is the world and the culture they've grown up in. This is the behavior our culture has asked them to display. Before last night, anyone criticizing - or even questioning - behavior like that was considered un-American.

Think about the last decade and you'll see why spontaneous celebration comes from on the heels of good news. Between September 11th; Madrid, London, and Bali; the war in Afganistan continues; the war in Iraq continues; Hurricane Katrina and the Flood - and the rebuilding that continues; earthquakes and/or tsunamis in Indonesia, Haiti, and Japan; the Great Recession, the rising gasoline prices, the economic stagnation and insecurity that comes along with it; the BP Oil Gusher in the Gulf of Mexico; and our poisoned popular and political culture, where has the good news come from for the last 10 years?

And now, the face most associated with evil over the last decade was brought down. How can you expect people not to cheer? When talking about excessive celebration, there is an oft-heard suggestion to "act like you've been there before." For a lot of folks, they haven't been here before. For others, it has been a long, long time.

On the other hand, I remember the decade before the last and I grew up in the decade before that. As much damage as bin Laden has done to our nation and our world, as much damage has been done in our nation's imperfect pursuit of him and the clash of civilizations that he intentionally attempted to construct (and that so many in our own nation followed him into with froth at the mouths), I find it hard to celebrate with cheering.

We really have lost so very much, in so very many ways, as a nation and as a world, over the last 10 years. I know things in the past weren't as good as my memory thinks they were, and I know things in the present aren't as bad as they seem, but I can't help to think about where the world would be if this one madman hadn't had the wherewithal or means to disrupt and damage so much of what it felt we were working on.

And that does not make me feel like cheering.

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The Obituary of Record

bin Laden is dead. Reports are saying that Navy SEALs found him in a vacation manse in Pakistan, and instead of coming along peacefully, he decided to resist capture with the typical results.

The New York Times goes for seven pages of obituary, tying him to every recent terrorist attack we know by name, over the administrations of five United States Presidents.

Was he really that important to worldwide terrorism? Did his family really refer to him as the "slave child?" There is so much in that story that I want to believe, so much of it that seems plausible. Doing so might mean a real blow has been struck against worldwide terrorism, just by eliminating one man on a personal mission.

I pondered over how much damage one man can do, and how much damage that one man actually did. We heard his name before the day "September 11th" was seared into our collective consciousness. Just look at the irreparable damage he has left in his wake. That would be true, regardless of the words in the New York Times.

So, I'll also ponder the power of words, written on the page, to write history as it happens.

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