Wednesday, September 28, 2005

At least Mrs. Shrub stayed long enough to get sweaty

The Mandarin made a little fun of Laura yesterday, but I have to give her a lot more credit than her husband. Photo op though it was, she stayed long enough to get sweaty and see people face to face in their distress. And the Mandarin suspects it was much less scripted and stage-managed than her husband's recent attempts to recapture the 9/11 "megaphone moment."

Laura vs. Hillary in 2008? Hmmm....

Original photo caption: First Lady Laura Bush hands out lunches at a Salvation Army hurricane relief distribution site Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005, in Biloxi, Miss. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Murdley Gurdson to head FEMA?

Mike Brown is now blaming everyone but himself for FEMA's problems during Hurricane Katrina. While there is plenty of blame to go around, Brownie's protestations of innocence remind the Mandarin of the lovely children's book It Wasn't My Fault by Helen Lester.

When the Mandarin's two sons were little, this was one of their favorite bedtime books. It should be required reading for every senior political appointee in the Shrub Administration.

Lester's main character, Murdley Gurdson, is a kind of Brownie-esque hard luck kid. The book begins: "Things did not always go well for Murdley Gurdson. He couldn't control the toothpaste. He fell into wastebaskets. And he dropped only valuable vases. Whatever happened, it was usually his fault." Whenever something bad happens to Murdley, like a bird laying an egg on his head, Murdley always manages to trace a wildly improbable sequence of events that leads right back to something, however innocent it seemed at the time, that Murdley himself had done.

Murdley, you're doin' a heck of a job.

I was thinking of something a little more extreme...

Mrs. Shrub has arranged a photo op on a reality TV show to be taped in the Katrina-ravaged coastal area of Mississippi: Laura Bush will travel to storm-damaged Biloxi, Miss., to film a spot on the feel-good, wish-granting hit "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Mrs. Bush sought to be on the program because she shares the "same principles" that the producers hold, her press secretary said.

In its standard format, the popular ABC series finds hard-pressed but deserving families, sends them away for short vacations and then, in a whirlwind of carpentry and appliance-shopping, gives them new homes. This time, though, the show will broadcast from an underserved shelter near Biloxi, where a convoy of trucks stocked with everything from mattresses to pants will arrive, courtesy of Sears, one of the show's sponsors.

It's not clear exactly what Mrs. Bush will do, but Tom Forman, executive producer and creator, said he is hoping that she'll just pitch in and help unload.

What principles does she share with the producers, the Mandarin wonders? The Mandarin also wonders if the usual format of building them new houses would somehow be more appropriate. But when they are eventually moved instead into a FEMA trailer ghetto somewhere, at least they'll have new jeans and mattresses.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Storms Prove It: The Bush Dynasty has Lost the Mandate of Heaven

Trust the Mandarin on this one - he is on the firm ground of his scholarly specialty: Heaven has withdrawn its mandate from the Bush Dynasty and another dynasty must rise to take its place.

In the classic Chinese worldview, well established for three thousand years, the legitimacy of rulers derives from the Mandate of Heaven, or 天命 (tian ming - literally "Heaven’s Decree"). Within limits, ruling families were free to govern as they chose. If they governed benevolently and wisely, their dynasties could last for centuries. If they governed badly and offended Heaven by their mistreatment of the people under their care, eventually Heaven would withdraw its Mandate, the dynasty would fall, and another family would found a new dynasty.

How did the average Chinese peasant in the street know that Heaven’s mandate had been withdrawn? Heaven would send natural disasters such as rainstorms, floods, typhoons, fires, or earthquakes.

In this way, the Chinese people knew in 1976 that the 27-year revolutionary Mao Zedong Dynasty was ending when a massive earthquake leveled the city of Tangshan and killed or injured literally millions of people. Mao soon died, and after a brief interregnum under Hua Guofeng, the pragmatic Deng Xiaoping Dynasty received the Mandate of Heaven in 1978. The first Emperor Deng's successors are still ruling China today.

Now, Hurricane Rita is intensifying and heading for the Bush heartland - Texas. The current Emperor Bush's detached palace at Crawford is the red dot on the map shown above. The memorial temple and library of the first Emperor Bush at College Station is also in the storm’s direct path. Hurricanes are fickle, so Rita may weaken or change her course before landfall and in the end may not uproot the Bush trees or flood the Bush bike paths or ruin the Emperor's regalia: the pickup truck and the chainsaw. But, by aiming this storm, for now a potentially catastrophic Category Five hurricane, directly at the current Emperor Bush's home, Heaven is sending the Bush clan a clear sign of its displeasure -- in case the Emperor's Grand Councilors Rove and Cheney missed the message of Katrina.

The Bush Dynasty is finished. They have governed badly, brought misery to their subjects, and lost the Mandate of Heaven. On whom will Heaven next bestow its mandate? Heaven only knows.

[Source of map: as of 5:00am 9/21/2005 - red dot added]

Happy belated birthday, Katrina, wherever you are....

The Mandarin's birthday is September 11, and he occasionally regrets that date has become so infamous, a verbal icon of so many bad memories for our nation. Yesterday, the Mandarin read Senator Kerry's indictment of the Shrub regime in his speech at Brown University, labeling it the "Katrina Administration." There is overwhelming merit to his argument that the shamefully bungled Federal response to Katrina by Georgie, Brownie, FEMA, et. al., is an emblem of a much more pervasive incompetence in the Executive Branch. Anyway, reading that, and pondering the name Katrina becoming another verbal icon like "9/11," it occurred to the Mandarin that women and girls named Katrina might be feeling the way the Mandarin does about his infamous birthday. They aren't just Katrina any more, they share the name of a national tragedy and a national disgrace at the same time. And, among those women and girls, somewhere, is a Katrina born on September 11th. So, to that Katrina, the Mandarin says: "Happy belated birthday, Katrina, wherever you are...."

Monday, September 19, 2005

I think a "Clintonian response" to Hurricane Katrina would have been very different

But we are all entitled to our own opinions. Here is an ingenious use of "Clintonian" from the distinguished conservative rag American Spectator:

Publicly, the White House will tell you that it intends to push ahead with two of its big legislative issues throughout the fall: making permanent the first term tax cuts and Social Security reform.

Even privately, with the political and policy debacle that the White House created with its Clintonian response to Hurricane Katrina, policy and political types at 1600 Pennsylvania insist what's left of an agenda is still viable.

But at this stage of the game, barring some imaginative political moves that bear some resemblance to the Bush Administration circa 2002, Republicans on Capitol Hill and even some longtime Bush team members in various Cabinet level departments say this Administration is done for.

"You run down the list of things we thought we could accomplish and you have to wonder what we thought we were thinking," says a Bush Administration member who joined on in 2001. "You get the impression that we're more than listless. We're sunk."

There's more, worth a read for a taste of creeping Republican despair.

Friday, September 16, 2005

"Let your light so shine before men....

that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in Heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

Well, for an hour or so anyway. NBC's Brian Williams reports the following about Shrub's stand-up in Jackson Square last night:

I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.

Like, maybe the conclusion that someone could just switch the power back on if they really wanted to?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Maybe Bush should just raise his hand and ask Kofi Annan for a hall pass....

Original photo caption form Reuters: U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's vision of freedom from want, persecution and war. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Bette Davis Eyes?

Speaking of eyes....

Multiple choice test.

1. You are getting sleepy - very, very sleepy....

2. OK, I see the deer, now where are the headlights?

3. Using the same under-the-jacket voice prompter that Shrub wore in the presidential debates, Karl Rove has just given John Roberts an unexpected electric shock after Roberts told the Senate Judiciary Committee that stare decisis applied to Roe v. Wade.

4. All of the above.

Where is Ben Stein when we need him?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ben Stein on Bush - not a "dry eye" in the place

Though Ben is most visible recently in his "dry eyes" commercials, he is also a well-regarded political pundit and former Nixon speech-writer. The Mandarin has a lot of respect for Ben. The Mandarin was a contestant on Ben's quiz show, and actualy won some of Ben Stein's money. In his chats with the Mandarin during taping breaks, Ben was charming and witty. But in this piece, I think he doth protest too much.

Bennie, you're doin' a heck of a job.

Remind me what Clinton did to get impeached? Fibbing about what?

Reuters today: Asked if Americans should be concerned their government remains unprepared to respond to another major disaster or a terrorist attack, Bush said: "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

Georgie, to the extent you're doing a job, its a heck of a job.

Thinking about the meaning of the words "I take responsibility," the Mandarin wonders how such a taking of responsibility actually works in the real world of Bushland. Where does that pesky buck stop now?

Now, the Mandarin's head is starting to hurt.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I noticed a pattern right away

Kevin Drum summarizes the qualifications of the last four heads of FEMA. He quotes one line of a Sesame Street song as a hint to the pattern you're supposed to pick up. Here's the whole verse:

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

The headlines from Kevin's rundown. The full post is a must-read. The job is to coordinate the nation's emergency services, so some experience in that would be cool.

1990-1992: Wallace Stickney, a close friend and former next door neighbor of White House Chief of Staff John Sununu.

1993-2000: James Lee Witt, Director of the Arkansas Office of Emergency Services.

2001-2002: Joe Allbaugh, National Campaign Manager for Bush-Cheney 2000, and the guy who helped Karen Hughes sanitize Shrub's Texas Air National Guard files.

2003-Present: Michael Brown, Commissioner of Judges and Stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association, and Allbaugh's college roommate.

Connect the dots.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Toasting marshmallows in the Astrodome

From Domeblog - a blogger at the Astrodome: Earlier today, Tom DeLay, Texas Congressman and House Majority Leader (for now anyway), visited a few thousand of his newest constituents.

While on the tour with top administration officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots. The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?" They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.

Kum-ba-ya, dude!

No argument from me

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The West Bank was not going to become New Orleans

Thanks to NS for pointing me to this heart-breaking and infuriating personal account of Katrina's aftermath.

Money quote -- A large group of people who had been locked out of their hotels were told by a senior police official that evacuation busses were waiting across the greater New Orleans Bridge on the Pontchartrain Expressway:

"As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move. We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans."

Bush Told Hurricane Katrina Determined to Attack United States

"Junior" has a senior moment? Bush claimed nobody anticipated the hurricane could cause the levees to fail and flood New Orleans. Except, according to the guy giving the briefing in this photo (Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center), he warned the President of exactly that possibility in this video conference on Sunday August 28th, before Katrina even made landfall.. Picture source: White House web site.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Fire Michael Brown

Aren't there some Republican Arabian horses somewhere yearning for someone to give them legal advice? Its a start. Click me.

Dr. Frist sets an example his boss should follow

Senator Frist grabbed his doctor's bag and headed for New Orleans yesterday. Not for an hour of photo ops, but to stay and treat the sick. I don't like his politics, but that can wait. People need help down there.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Faith-based disaster relief - Bush-style

Shrub is telling his destitute taxpaying citizens to seek disaster releif from a religious charity.

During his whirlwind (pun intended) visit to the gulf coast yesterday: "In Biloxi, Miss., Bush encountered two weeping women on a street where a house had collapsed and towering trees were stripped of their branches. 'My son needs clothes,' said Bronwynne Bassier, 23, clutching several trash bags. 'I don't have anything.' 'I understand that,' Bush said. He kissed both women on their heads and walked with his arms around them, telling them they could get help from the Salvation Army. 'Hang in there,' he said." [Associated Press]

Maybe he should have given her a set of Air Force One cufflinks, too? If I wanted a clueless President, I would have voted for Cher Horowitz.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Plenty of room at the ranch in Crawford these days

Maybe now that Shrub has decamped early to avoid Cindy Sheehan and (until this morning) the Katrina disaster, he might open up his ranch to the refugees? There is room for thousands of cots, plus the lovely bike trails will provide hours of exercise for people who have been stuck in those cramped seats at the Superdome.

I hope to God Bush (or Rove on his behalf) has the brains gets his picture taken today, during his visit to the area, spending a few hours (not a few minutes) on the relief line handing out food and water to his fellow Americans. Otherwise the $6,000 an hour in jet fuel that Air Force One burns to get him down there (again, after his flyover the other day) will have been a disgusting waste.

I have to imagine that in their day Bush Senior or Reagan or B. Clinton or Carter or someday McCain or Giuliani or Gore or H. Clinton or Ahnuld or Jeb Bush would be there sweating, in muddy boots, passing out bottled water and food while the Marine One presidential helicopter rescued desperately sick people from hospital rooftops even if the nice clean Presidential seats were going to get all damp and stinky from the mud and blood....

The Mandarin is planning to make a donation to the Red Cross, but a friend of his, something of a Mandarin himself, just pointed out something the Mandarin had been mulling over in the shower this morning. The Mandarin and his family, more fortunate than many of those we see in the horrific TV images, paid enough in various federal taxes last year to buy everyone at the Superdome a square meal and a big bottle of water (or enough for the gas Air Force One is burning to fly Shrub from Washington to the gulf coast and back today)... Those dollars ought to be available for assisting our fellow Americans in distress, but the Mandarin is afraid that President Bush has blown them on some neocon nation-building stunt in Iraq. So, another dip into the wallet seems the thing to do.

And where are the Bush twins? Not burdened by onerous 9-to-5 jobs, they could certainly spend a few days showing the family flag down in the disaster zone. Just tell them its an all-expense paid week in the French Quarter. Chips off the old Shrub, they probably don't read newspapers or watch TV news anyway, so think what a nice surprise would await them when they stepped off the plane.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A President from the Flyover States, well, flies over them....

This picture is worth a thousand words, and Arianna Huffington said them best. Her opening salvo:

"The president's 35-minute Air Force One flyover of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama was the perfect metaphor for his entire presidency: detached, disconnected, and disengaged. Preferring to take in America's suffering -- whether caused by the war in Iraq or Hurricane Katrina -- from a distance. In this case, 2,500 feet. Apparently, the president 'sat somberly on a couch on the left hand side of the presidential jumbo jet peering out the window' at the catastrophe below, joined at different times by White House staffers including Karl Rove and Scott McClellan. McClellan later quoted the president as saying, 'It's devastating. It's got to be doubly devastating on the ground.' Ya think?? Hey, here's an idea, Mr. President: maybe you should, y'know, get off the plane and see for yourself?"

Why is that man still grinning?

Gosh, I expect him to break out any minute with, "The sun will come out, tomorrow..."

The New York Times: "George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end. Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis."

Josh Marshall: "We're hearing again and again now that there just wasn't enough money for a lot of this stuff. Terrorism was our big focus. Some kinds of preparedness aren't simply a question of funds. They turn on less elastic resources. But most of what we're hearing about is dollars and planning. So when we hear, 'well, there just wasn't enough for this and terrorism', or 'we needed the money for Iraq', the real answer is 'nice try'. The president cut taxes every year of his first term in office. He's trying to push through a major tax cut right now. So it's not terrorism that took away the money. It was tax cuts. And to a degree, same thing for Iraq. Choices have consequences. And bad consequences require accountability."

Manchester Union Leader: "As the extent of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation became clearer on Tuesday — millions without power, tens of thousands homeless, a death toll unknowable because rescue crews can’t reach some regions — President Bush carried on with his plans to speak in San Diego, as if nothing important had happened the day before. Katrina already is measured as one of the worst storms in American history. And yet, President Bush decided that his plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VJ Day with a speech were more pressing than responding to the carnage. A better leader would have flown straight to the disaster zone and announced the immediate mobilization of every available resource to rescue the stranded, find and bury the dead, and keep the survivors fed, clothed, sheltered and free of disease. The cool, confident, intuitive leadership Bush exhibited in his first term, particularly in the months immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, has vanished. In its place is a diffident detachment unsuitable for the leader of a nation facing war, natural disaster and economic uncertainty. Wherever the old George W. Bush went, we sure wish we had him back."

Rudy G, where are ye?