Seven Degrees from Normal

Two people, eighteen years of marriage, seven college degrees.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A danger to himself and others

What that boy needs is a stint in the Army to straighten him out.
President's nephew arrested on Sixth Street
John Ellis Bush charged with public intoxication, resisting arrest
By Tony Plohetski, Steven Kreytak
Friday, September 16, 2005

The youngest son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was arrested in downtown Austin early today on charges of public intoxication and resisting arrest, officials said.

John Ellis Bush, 21, was taken into custody around 2:30 a.m. near the intersection of Trinity and Sixth streets near the downtown entertainment district. He was released around 10:30 a.m. today on a personal recognizance bond. Bail had been set at $2,500.

ABC Capt. David Ferrero said Bush approached a group of TABC and Austin police officers and asked about an earlier arrest of people he knew and was observed to be intoxicated. Agents did not know his identity until after they had arrested him and looked at his driver's license, which was issued from Florida.

He would not be more specific about how Bush was behaving.

Ferrero said while Bush was being arrested, he suffered a cut on his chin and was taken to Brackenridge Hospital, treated and released. He was then taken to the Travis County Jail.

"He was observed to be a danger to himself and others," Ferrero said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Blame Game

I spent part of yesterday volunteering at a job fair for Katrina evacuees. Didn't feel like I was doing nearly enough. Doesn't the Red Cross need people to go hurl insults at authority figures? I've got a very strong skills set in that area.

Vaugely related material is up at Toad.

Friday, September 09, 2005


Haven't heard too much from my brother-in-law (he's OK; I think he's now back in the city--they were trying to figure out if they could reopen his hospital), so here's a piece from the Austin Chronicle about a trained EMT's experience with Katrina and the government response:

Katrina Through the Eyes of an EMT

Freedom's just another word for fences, required preregistration and the threat of arrest

Sunday's "Freedom Walk" is really shaping up:
Tight Constraints on Pentagon's Freedom Walk
Event Remembering 9/11, Troops to Be Kept 'Sterile,' Limited to Preregistered

By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 9, 2005

Organizers of the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial Freedom Walk on Sunday are taking extraordinary measures to control participation in the march and concert, with the route fenced off and lined with police and the event closed to anyone who does not register online by 4:30 p.m. today.

The march, sponsored by the Department of Defense, will wend its way from the Pentagon to the Mall along a route that has not been specified but will be lined with four-foot-high snow fencing to keep it closed and "sterile," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense.

The U.S. Park Police will have its entire Washington force of several hundred on duty and along the route, on foot, horseback and motorcycles and monitoring from above by helicopter. Officers are prepared to arrest anyone who joins the march or concert without a credential and refuses to leave, said Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford.

The event, the America Supports You Freedom Walk, is billed as a memorial to victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and a show of support for those serving in the military, topped off with a concert by country singer Clint Black, known for his pro-troops anthem, "Iraq and Roll." Organizers said they expect 3,000 to 10,000 participants.
Part of me wants to know how much this is all going to cost taxpayers. But I guess freedom isn't free.

Fact checking

Time magazine has produced a really useful piece of journalism (!): an account of the "discrepancies" in the resume of FEMA director Michael Brown.

This begs the question: What other members of the Bush patronage system have lied on their resumes? Now that we've seen quite graphically how unqualified personnel can end up killing people, could the media please think about looking into this? I suggest starting with the Department of Homeland Security, which has already drawn a wee bit of scrutiny.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

"Not the time for blame"

Over the last few days I've gotten caught up in a listserve discussion over whether it is "appropriate" to criticize the government, president, or others over the failure of disaster relief in New Orleans. It's a frustrating discussion to follow (as listserve flashfires often are). Personally, at any other time, with any other administration, I'd probably agree with this criticism. But as things stand now, this seems like exactly the same lesson in faux ethics we got after 9/11: we must all pull together to support our country. It's the same argument we hear about Iraq: we can't criticize the war, because it would endanger the troops. Now we're told we can't criticize FEMA or President Bush because they are so busy trying to help, and our comments get in the way of people helping.

I'm sorry, but I call bullshit.

In the first place, my bitching and moaning has never had one iota of impact on the president or his policies or the federal government's ability to do whatever the hell it wants. My carping about disaster relief doesn't keep the Red Cross from bringing people water. Hell, I can't even get my husband to wear shoes, and I complain about that all the time. What's more, I am perfectly able to multitask. I can donate money online while I complain. I assume other people can too. Since donating money is all most of us can do at this stage, how are we hindering relief if we criticize while we're doing it?

How on earth does criticism, which is just people talking, for God's sake, hinder rescue efforts, which involve people actually DOING things? This seems to me like yet another conflation of thought and action--a habit that's becoming rampant in this country: You "support" the troops by putting a sticker on your car. No you don't people--let's be clear about the difference between sympathizing and actually DOING something; let's be honest about the difference between criticizing and actually HINDERING someone from acting. They ARE NOT THE SAME THING, and I for one am tired of being told they are.

The implication is that the president and our troops are so thin-skinned and vulnerable that mere criticism paralyzes them and impairs their ability to function. Give me a break. That may be true with Bush, who seems utterly unable to find fault with himself or tolerate those who find it in him. But for the vast majority of people, criticism only makes us mad, or ideally, reflective. If it stops us from doing our jobs, we don't deserve those jobs in the first place.

Which brings us back to the current situation.

Item 1: President Bush stayed on vacation until the hurricane hit, and then spent the first day while people were dying making fundraising speeches on the West coast. Why can't we say that was bad? Why can't we point out that this implies either his lack of comprehension of the situation or his lack of concern for the people involved? Let him refute these claims with his actions. If they are true and he can't refute them, he shouldn't be president. We're supposed to refrain from pointing out that a chief executive might be unfit for office because it's impolite?

Item 2: The head of FEMA, responsible for responding to disasters like Katrina, dropped the ball in ways too numerous to mention. He spent the first several days of the disaster making multiple TV appearances in which he assured incredulous newspeople that everything was under control, in direct contradiction of visible, on-the-ground evidence from the very reporters he was talking to. Doubts about this man's fitness for the job are furthered by the fact that his previous jobs were a), estate attorney, and b) legal counsel for an Arabian Horse association, which subsequently fired him for gross incomeptence. (The White House also apparently lied in the press release announcing his apppointment.) And the President appointed him to manage emergency response in a country where "Homeland Security" is the watchword.

Item 3: How many billions have we poured into Homeland Security? And this is what we get? Do YOU feel safer than you did in 2001?

At least a couple of senators want to get to the bottom of the whole sorry mess. I expect they will be labelled "unpatriotic" for "placing blame so soon after the disaster." What I want to know is, when WILL it be "appropriate" to criticize? How many more people have to die before good manners permit us to cough discreetly and suggest to our elected officials that they get their elbows off the table?