PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

I have a day job. So every word of this is my opinion, not that of my employer. This offer IS void in Wisconsin. Except, of course, that some material in this column comes from incoming e-mail; such material is usually reproduced in the Sans Serif type font to distinguish it from the (somewhat) original material.


To Pay For This Column Voluntarily
Tales of Teaching 2004
Tales of Teaching 2005

September 12, 2005: P.S. A Column On Things

September 12, 2005 Vol. 7, No. 36

Table of Contents:

General News

  • Lack of Panic
  • What I Do Now
  • Lost Control Of Our Destiny
  • Dream Poetry
  • Gasoline Boycott
  • Bushnomics
  • Political Notes

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Humor

  • Bush/Katrina Jokes
  • Lie Clocks

Movies

  • None

Letters

  • To live and ride in LA, A tale from the South, Keillor Column, Dan Grobstein File

General News

Lack of Panic

The biggest news of the week: I no longer wake up every morning in a cold sweat, filled with dread. I am actually quite relaxed about teaching. Could it be true what they say, that it gets easier as you go along? Part of this stems from the insistence of Mrs. S across the hall that we do joint planning for the first six weeks, a brilliant idea for which I am most grateful. But part of it is honestly a more relaxed attitude. I haven't had to send a single student to the principal's office yet, a record for me. I am yelling and getting angry less too; good for me and for my students.

What I Do Now

There are some things in this world I just don't understand and cannot image. One of them is the widespread fear of public speaking. According to as phobia-fighting web site:

A February 2001 Gallup poll found that 40% of adults have a fear of public speaking. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said that at a funeral, must people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.

I can't send you to the Gallup site; they charge you to see the data. Judging from the headline on the survey, the only thing Americans fear more than public speaking is snakes.

I have been a public speaker all my life. I was voluble as a child, worked in radio in high school and college, spent four years on the high school speech team doing debate and radio commentary, did a decade of software reviews on public television, hosted several dozen radio talk shows, and have spoken at numerous conventions and small meetings. I always thought if I could find a way to earn my living just be talking, I'd be in heaven.

I am pretty close to heaven .Teaching is 44 minutes of extemporaneous speaking per period (OK, really only 22 minutes; you spend half your time listening to students).

So I talk for a living, but I write for love. As I wrote the poem reprinted below under the headline Dream Poetry, I realized that the world is divided into four kinds of people (remember, the world is always divided into either two or four kinds of people): those with something to say who can write, those with something to say who can't write, those with nothing to say who can't write, and those with nothing to say who can write.

People who have something to say and can write are the ones who make society move forward: Rachel Carson with Silent Spring, Ralph Nader with Unsafe at any Speed, and a half dozen others. When I was young, I wanted to write just one book like that in my life. Instead, I wrote Aspirin Therapy and two volumes of memoirs I'll be lucky if my daughters ever read.

In short, I fall into the last category, those who have nothing to say but can write. I live to write. Always have loved it. When I was 12 I wrote a 160-page novel (now, mercifully, lost). When my previous employer changed me from a reporter to an editor, I started this column in order to fulfill my need to write.

By the way, teaching is harder than writing--you're being watched every minute. And what you do matters more when you teach.

Lost Control Of Our Destiny

I don't know if you noticed--most American's haven't--but China is the single biggest purchase of the government debt we are issuing to fund Bush's ill-advised tax cuts for the super-rich and his ill-advised war for the rest of us. They buy $1 million a day worth of U.S. Debt. People, especially Democrats, used to say that the National Debt was not a problem because it was money we owed ourselves. Well, guess what, now it is money we owe the Chinese. People say China won't stop propping us up because we are their largest market. This assumes the Chinese are rational players in the world. If you believe that, you don't know Chinese history. Take, for example, Mao's Great Leap Forward which killed his countrymen by the tens of millions. Of course, like our beloved President, Mao stayed the course. China is a totalitarian state. The leadership can do anything it wants. Woe be to us if we attempt to fulfill our treaty obligation to Taiwan to protect it against Chinese invasion. Our nuclear arsenal and vast army and navy will be helpless against the simple Chinese threat to stop funding our debt. Of course, we could escape this by raising taxes on the top 1% of American incomes to what they were 10 years ago, but apparently, Bush would rather hand a veto over American foreign policy to the Chinese then do the right and honorable thing, advocated by Republicans for decades until the Gingrich revolution--pay as you go.

The other veto over our foreign policy belongs to Saudi Arabia. If that country ever decides it really wants Israel gone, Israel will be gone. The Saudis can bring our country to its knees in a matter of weeks through the simple expedient of turning off the oil tap. "Cut off their nose to spite their face," you say? Not really. They can last a lot longer without our money than we can without their oil. Are they rational actors? Look at their support for Al Queda (until we noticed) and Wahhabism (their state religion) and tell me they are rational actors in the 21st century. Like every other nation on Earth in all of human history, their self-interest comes first.

I know what some of you are thinking: the Chinese and the Saudis would have to be insane to destroy their best customer. Well, buckle up buckie, because every well-informed and intelligent person I know is scared to death of the fact that America has lost control of its destiny to two of the most complete dictatorships that now exist on the planet. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Dream Poetry

I had the strangest dream last night, that either I was a Dutch immigrant to the United States. When asked what I did in the Netherlands, I said I wrote light verse. "Well," said my interrogator, "you Dutch all speak great English, why not do the same thing here?" So I sat down and composed this bit of doggerel, which I revamped a little once I woke up:

Here I sit, hat in hand,
Enjoying foreign land,
Waiting for big brass band

But I get tin kazoo,
Intended for my wazoo,
This one thing I can't do.

Writing this was no fun,
But at least I am done,
Never using silly pun.

Yes, I know the meter is off in the last line by one syllable. Vicki's comment was, "not bad for a dream, but don't quit your day job." I think it is nearly as good as the Prairie Home Companion script that I wrote in my dreams over a period of several years and finally set down on this web site in July 2001.

Gasoline Boycott

Phillip Hollsworth, offered this good idea:
...Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50-$1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace ... not sellers.

For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.

Please hold out until they lower their prices to the $1.30 range and keep them down. This can really work

Bushnomics

I love it when one of my friends puts it all together succinctly and then is kind enough to share with me. Richard Dalton, who has been concerned about issues of equity for years, offers this:

Remember the tax cuts that were supposed to invigorate the economy and give all citizens a boost?

The US Census Bureau's latest figures, released Tuesday, show that real median earnings for men aged 15 and older who worked full-time, year-round declined 2.3 percent between 2003 and 2004, to $40,798. Women with similar work experience saw their earnings decline by one percent, to $31,223. Reflecting the larger decline in earnings for men, the ratio of female-to-male earnings was 77 cents on the dollar, up from 76 cents in 2003.

Census figures show that for the first time on record household incomes failed to increase for five straight years. The median pretax income, $44,389, was at its lowest point since 1997, after inflation.

Marking the fourth consecutive annual increase, the official poverty rate rose from 12.5 percent (35.9 million) in 2003 to 12.7 percent (37 million) last year. There were 7.9 million families in poverty in 2004, up from 7.6 million in 2003. For a family of four, the poverty level threshold was $19,307; for a family of three, $15,067; for a family of two, $12,334; and for unrelated individuals, $9,645.

Thirteen million children under the age of 18 were in poverty last year. The rate, 17.8 percent, and the number were unchanged from 2003. The poverty rate increased for people aged 18 to 64, from 10.8 percent in 2003 to 12.1 percent in 2004. For those 65 and over, the poverty rate declined from 10.2 percent to 9.8 percent.

And these figures were all pre-Katrina.

However, A new report, "Executive Excess 2005," from the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy, shows that the ratio of average CEO pay (now $11.8 million) to worker pay (now $27,460) increased from 301-to-1 in 2003 to 431-to-1 in 2004.

It seems that Bushonomics are working--for somebody.

Political Notes

If Bush trips up on New Orleans, it will be like sending Al Capone to federal prison for income tax evasion. You do the math.

***

Just to show you there is another side to all this, I am printing, without snarky comment, an e-mail from my friend Mike McNamee:

Y'know, I'm still looking for the explanation of why it was the federal government's responsibility to lead the initial response to the hurricane and flooding in New Orleans. In no other natural disaster in my memory has the President of the United States been expected to police the streets, put out the fires, or run the emergency rooms. "Take my city -- please!" is the punchline to a joke, not an actual working attitude on the part of mayors or governors.

Basically, you had local authorities who botched the evacuation, created an inadequate shelter-in-place strategy that was quickly overwhelmed, failed to keep a good portion of their police force on the job, and didn't realize that they were in over the heads until it was too late for the feds to move in the heavy stocks of pre-positioned supplies that they had prepared. But none of this would have happened if George had left his ranch a couple of days earlier ...

***

In January 2005:

Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL) sent the following letter to President George Bush requesting that he immediately remove Michael Brown from his position as head of the Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Under Secretary Brown's agency disbursed over $30 million in disaster relief money, which was allocated to over 10,000 Miami-Dade claimants after Hurricane Frances, which made landfall more than 100 miles away and there was no more than a heavy rainstorm.

In short, Brown was buying votes in Florida. See also:

I need to note in passing that these people are not hysterics. What they are doing is using mainstream media (MSM) coverage--mediated, fact-checked, gate-keepered coverage, to "connect the dots," which, as a former reporter, I know the media are loathe to do, no matter how obvious the connections.

Moving on, the right (led by the Wall Street Journal) are saying this isn't Bush's fault or FEMA's fault; it is the mayor and the governor.

Really? Check out this Talk Points Memo column describing a Salt Lake City newspaper story--FEMA Wastes Firefighters.

Help me figure out how that's the Governor's fault, would you? And how about this:

  • Chicago Sun Times: Daley 'shocked' as feds reject aid: A visibly angry Mayor Daley said the city had offered emergency, medical and technical help to the federal government as early as Sunday to assist people in the areas stricken by Hurricane Katrina, but as of Friday, the only things the feds said they wanted was a single tank truck.

Is that the fault of the Louisiana governor, or the mayor of New Orleans? I don't think so...

And don't just blame it on FEMA, because Bush appointed the head of FEMA, and kept him in place when his incompetence became obvious to everyone in America--except Bush, who apparently likes the way he launders bribes to Florida voters disguised as disaster relief.

***

The San Francisco Chronicle deserves its reputation as America's only daily newsprint comic book, although, I am ashamed to admit, it has become more serious since Hearst bought it from the squabbling idiots of the fourth generation of the founders' families. I never thought I'd live to write that sentence, that a newspaper had been improved by Hearst ownership, but maybe it is true; perhaps wonders do never cease. In any case, part of its good reputation stems from its excellent lineup of columnists in Datebook, the "entertainment" section of the newspaper, which has the best writing on cheap paper in America today. By coincidence (they don't see each other's copy) two columnists on Friday had outstanding efforts, relevant to the current crisis:

  • Stop! Don't criticize Bush for doing what he was hired to do
    Mark Morford
    San Francisco Chronicle, September 9, 2005
    Excerpt: After all, Bush has always been the rich white man's president. He is the CEO president, the megacorporate businessman's friend, the thug of the religious right, a big reservoir-tipped condom for all energy magnates... He has always been merely an entirely selective figurehead, a hand puppet of the neoconservative machine built and fluffed up and carefully placed for the very specific job of protecting their interests, no matter what.
  • Jon Carroll's Column
    Jon Carroll
    San Francisco Chronicle, September 9, 2005
    Excerpt: Some will say: We have to move on. I think that is what I will say the next time I am charged with murder: Let's not play the blame game. Let's not start pointing fingers. It is time to move on. It is time to make sure that more murders do not happen. Won't you join me in this national campaign against murder? God bless America.

While we wait for the rest of America's MSM (mainstream media) to grow a spine (which, remarkably, it shows signs of doing), we'll have to make do with great work in the fun and games department of a left-coast newspaper.

Briefs

  • Connecting the dots: The Katrina project: practice for the garrison state
  • Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff and FEMA director Michael Brown make headway (a variation of Abbott and Costello's famous Who's on First routine.
  • From the BBC: Multiple failures caused relief crisis. Thank you, Robert Malchman.
  • Slate: We Have a Loser: Earlier this week, neo-con Bill Kristol told the Washington Post that almost every Republican he had spoken to was disappointed in Bush's performance. By evoking broad disdain for the administration's response from Republicans and Democrats alike, Bush has finally kept his promise to be a uniter, not a divider. (Thank you, Peggy Coquet).
  • From Richard Dalton: Among other activities, VoteToImpeach is organizing a group to march in the peace rally scheduled for Sept. 24. I'm planning to be there and would encourage anyone seriously opposed to the war and/or the Bush presidency to check this Web site or unitedforpeace.org A march is also scheduled for San Francisco. (Ed. note: Carter AG Ramsey Clark thinks Bush should be impeached, FYI).
  • Gotta Love Google: Enter the world "failure" in Google and see what comes up first.

Craig Reynolds' Technobriefs

Cosmic debris: Distant solar system body may be cigar-shaped, Cosmic 'cigar' spins at astonishing pace! The KBO called 2003 EL61 was discovered in late July this year. There are gazillions of little KBOs but a few are pretty big, and many astronomers now believe that Pluto is not so much a small, distant planet as a big, nearby KBO. Elsewhere, this BBC feature draws parallels between Titan and Earth. In science and science fiction, Titan has long been considered a likely suspect to foster alien life. Finally: some physical systems settle over time into a low energy state -- the boulder rolls down the hill then stops in the valley -- these are called dissapive. Others have periodic behavior, like an orbiting planet. Others are chaotic. Between the latter two ("poised on the edge of chaos" -Chris Langton) are the complex adaptive systems, the most interesting of the lot. We learned this week that clumps of particles in Saturn's A ring fall into this class of "interesting" systems. ("...Look here brother, who you jivin' with that Cosmic Debris?" -Zappa)

Google hires everyone except Ballmer: in July Kai-Fu Lee jumped ship from Microsoft to Google. Recently released court papers detail how the news drove Steve Ballmer into one of his trademark psychotic episodes: Ballmer vowed to 'kill' Google, Microsoft's Ballmer: chair-tossing potty-mouth, Microsoft alleges exec used inside info. Via the court papers we also learn that even the Chinese Communist bureaucrats make fun of the idiots at Microsoft: 'China has f*cked us' - Bill Gates. It was also announced this week that Google Hires 'Father of the Internet' Vinton Cerf, Google hires Net pioneer Vint Cerf Vint has recently been working on InterPlaNet via Delay Tolerant Networking Research Group.

The still evolving human brain: surprising evidence of recent, ongoing evolutionary changes in the structure of human brains: Study says human brain still evolves, Human Brains Are Getting Larger, More Complex, Scientists Say and Human brains enjoy ongoing evolution.

The Skype's the limit: this week the talk was about eBay buying Skype. Recently it has been about News Corp. buying Skype or Yahoo! buying Skype, or Microsoft, or Taco Bell... Is VoIP pioneer Skype really worth the $5 billion being bandied about? Businessweek explains Why Skype Can Play Hard to Get.

Blizzard mea culpa?: regarding last week's "don't you dare reverse-engineer", after winning a DMCA-based lawsuit, Blizzard now appears to be effectively admitting that their servers are lame (Blizzard to compensate players for World of Warcraft problems) which is what led to the circumvention in the first place.

Wacky for Wikipedia: I'm not sure if anyone clicks compulsively on all the links I compulsively provide. If anyone does they will have noticed that I frequently use Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia to define buzzwords in Technobriefs (like, for example: Wikipedia, the encyclopedia's article about itself). Reuters ran a feature about the Wikipedia phenomena: News junkies find Wikipedia more than encyclopedia.

Technobits: Yahoo 'helped jail China writer' --- from EFF: The Customer Is Always Wrong: A User's Guide to DRM in Online Music --- A 'Weather Nerd' in Indiana Sent a Warning to the Mayor of New Orleans --- PocketMod: The Free Disposable Personal Organizer --- decoding FedEx door tags --- Cringely's new online show: NerdTV.

Humor

Bush/Katrina Jokes

Neal Vitale writes:

Two great bits tonight (The Daily Show, September 6)
1) As a response to Katrina, Bush is building a billion dollar dam in Arkansas. That way, he can fight the water there, so he won't have to fight the water here (New Orleans).
2) Did you know that Presidential crises were named alphabetically? Even after 5 years, we're only up to K. (You don't want to get to the end of the alphabet - Yam shortage, only outpaced by Zero people left on earth.)
The list:

Abu graib
Bin laden
Chalabi
Deficit
Enron
Failure to find WMDs
G [None - apparently, the g is silent]
Halliburton
Irag
John Bolton
Katrina
Still to come...

Locusts
Mars attacks
North Korea
Osama & Jenna
Pregnancy: Osama & Jenna
Queer revolt
Rodents of unusual size
Syrian war
Tigers
Unicyclists, nuclear
Voldemort
WW III
X-rated tape: Osama & Jenna
Yam shortage
Zero people left on earth

Lie Clocks

A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, "What are all those clocks?" St. Peter answered, "Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on Earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie the hands on your clock will move." "Oh," said the man, "whose clock is that?" "That's Mother Teresa's. The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie." "Incredible," said the man. "And whose clock is that one?" St. Peter responded, "That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe told only two lies in his entire life." "Where's Bush's clock?" asked the man. "Bush's clock is in Jesus' office. He's using it as a ceiling fan."

 

Movies

None

Apparently, it is either feast or famine in this department...

Letters

To live and ride in LA, A tale from the South, Keillor Column, Dan Grobstein File

Garrison Keillor is good and getting better as a newspaper columnist.

Neal Vitale's daughter rides here. He's not so sure it's a status symbol thing.

  • FASHION & STYLE / SUNDAY STYLES | September 4, 2005
    To Live and Ride in L.A.
    By MIREYA NAVARRO
    In the land of freeways, a thoroughbred in the yard feeds into the myth of Western freedom and is a status symbol.

A friend in the travel business forwarded this from an organization called Vacations to Go. It tells what is happening in Houston, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


The governor of Texas and the mayor of Houston have opened the Astrodome to evacuees from Louisiana. The enormous ground level of the Astrodome has already filled to absolute capacity with thousands of small cots, and every one is taken...

For the safety of the untold thousands already here, the fire marshal has closed the Astrodome to new arrivals, but the evacuation is chaotic, and the buses just keep coming...

We load tables and supplies into two trucks and walk from the Astrodome to Reliant Arena, where we pass an impromptu medical "clinic" filled with sick and injured evacuees and bleary-eyed doctors, nurses, paramedics and police officers.

Within an hour we are ready to serve and the doors are opened. As evacuees enter the building, their identities are recorded, and they proceed immediately to our three serving lines for their first hot meal in days: two waffles, two sausage patties, one pat of butter, one serving of syrup, one box of juice and one big spoonful of grits...

[He compliments the food service firm Aramak for good management and not running out of food]

I will not soon forget the faces of the people as they came through the line. Many were dazed or grieving, and some still wore the clothes they had on when Katrina struck. Some wore bandages and struggled to hold their plates steady. Others tried to smile, and made a point of expressing their gratitude and shaking our hands in the midst of having lost everything...

The Deep South is in trouble, and the need is as wide and as deep as the Mississippi.

Dan Grobstein File

  • You may have heard that Bush engaged in some Potemkin village construction while visiting the gulf. Not exactly true.
  • FEMA has a rap. Too bad they don't have a disaster plan.
  • Talking Points Memo: The billions of dollars in cash that disappeared in duffel bags in Iraq is just the beginning. Also, you can't say the President didn't know.
  • The Official George W. Bush "Days Left In Office" Countdown Clock
  • Dan sez (sarcastically): It's not Bush's fault after all! AP via Fox News
    CBO: More Jobless, Lower Growth Expected From Katrina
    Thursday, September 08, 2005
  • Carter V. Bush: Carter told the truth. Bush lies. Carter is thought of as hapless. Bush is the "strong leader".Maybe they should switch places.
  • Daily KOS: In other words, at what may have been the very peak of the Katrina crisis, President Bush called Secretary Chertoff from Air Force One and talked about...immigration? Could that really have been all they discussed? And if they did talk about Katrina, wasn't Bush informed that DHS had not yet dispatched any significant group of rescuers to the region?
  • Looking for higher ground
    By Garrison Keillor
    Salon.com
    ---
    Excerpt: You don't have to be drunk to be stupid. Here was a patronage appointee, the pal of a pal, in charge of the federal response to Katrina and he sat and waited to see what would happen and when it happened, he froze. As Mr. Bush said, he had no idea that the levees wouldn't hold. Truly. It's not how we used to do things, back when there was a sense of shame attached to government incompetence that costs lives, but it's different in America these days. Don't ever get in trouble, is my advice. Head upriver and look for high ground.
  • Sumo Videos
  • The Washington Monthly: Mike Brown's padded résumé. (ed. note: As Gomer Pyle might say, "surprise, surprise." Please be aware that journalists who pad their résumé this baldly are fired on the spot)
  • New Orleans depth of flooding map.
  • Fox News Throughout History [Dan notes: Also, I see that Dubya's been able to knock the treasongate coverage out of the media.]

New York Times

  • OPINION | September 7, 2005
    Op-Ed Columnist: Osama and Katrina
    By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
    If President Bush goes back to his politics as usual, Katrina will have destroyed a city and a presidency.
  • OPINION | September 8, 2005
    Editorial: Bring Out Your Pork
    The need of the victims of Hurricane Katrina should inspire members of Congress to become something approaching responsible policy makers.
  • TECHNOLOGY | September 8, 2005
    The Come-ons: After the Storm, the Swindlers
    By TOM ZELLER Jr.
    Even as millions rally to make donations to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Internet is brimming with swindles and come-ons related to the relief effort.
  • Nifty New York Times Katrina Graphic (Ed. note: The New York Times has the best infographics of ANY web site, bar none. Let us pray the continue to put the effort into their Internet product).
  • NATIONAL / NATIONAL SPECIAL | September 7, 2005
    The Former First Lady: Barbara Bush Calls Evacuees Better Off
    By THE NEW YORK TIMES
    President Bush's mother said that many of the poor people she had seen while touring a Houston relocation site were faring better than before the storm hit.
  • INTERNATIONAL / MIDDLE EAST | September 10, 2005
    Security Company Closes Baghdad Airport Over Pay
    By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.
    The private security company that guards Baghdad International Airport shut down the airport on Friday, saying that it had not been paid for the past six months.
  • OPINION | September 10, 2005
    Op-Ed Columnist: Neigh to Cronies
    By MAUREEN DOWD
    The cronies on the Homeland Security payroll.

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