Delay kicks MoveOn judge, but Alito's affiliations are irrelevant?

Now let me get this straight. Tom Delay can force the judge in his case to recuse himself because he once contributed to MoveOn, but we're supposed to sit still for a jurist who is an acknowledged member of a highly conservative society?

Via the Washington Post
But Ralph Neas, president of the liberal People for the American Way, disagreed, saying Alito's membership in the society is fair game for the hearings.

"Of course membership in or participation in Federalist Society events doesn't disqualify someone from office but it can help people understand the judicial philosophy of the nominee," Neas said. "The Federalist Society likes to pretend it's just a debating club, but for last 20 years it has been at the forefront of the efforts to push a right-wing counterrevolution in the courts and undo decades worth of precedent."

Michael McDaid 1913-2005

Michael and Dorothy McDaid, 1985

Michael McDaid, my uncle and the last of my father's siblings, passed away last Monday after a prolonged illness. He lived with our family all the time I was growing up, and when his health started to decline, my mom, the (by then a retired) RN, took care of him until her stroke.

Although Michael was confined to a wheelchair, he was a most mobile and energetic 92-year-old. He played bingo with enormous enthusiasm, and just a few days before he died, insisted on going on the nursing home's all-day field trip to a farm. He lived a long, happy life, and he passed so peacefully on Monday morning that I genuinely thought he was just asleep. A thought from one of his favorite songs:

"I feel that old tyrant approaching
 That cruel, remorseless old foe...
 And I lift up my glass in his honor:
 Take a drink with Old Rosin the Bow."

Amtrak Blues

The Bush Administration seems set to accomplish what their spiritual predecessors — the Reagan team — could not: the complete destruction of Amtrak.

On September 22, the railroad's board voted to split off the Northeast Corridor's infrastructure and hand it over to a public-private partnership. None of the states involved were consulted ahead of time, and news of the vote only became public because an anonymous tipster alerted the media.

The Northeast Corridor accounts for more than a third of all passengers for Amtrak (9.5m out of 25.4m total) and handing over system operations to the states, while forcing Amtrak to run the trains subject to whatever fiscal and operational constraints the still-to-be-created entity cooks up seems a recipe for confusion at best, disaster at worst.

Billions in bailouts for gas-guzzling airlines. No emission standards for "light trucks" masquerading as family vehicles. Why on earth do Republicans so hate trains?

Stimulus and response

Since my friend Tavis's death last month, I had been in a complete funk. I'd been one of the group of friends who cleaned out his apartment, and that was really, really depressing. So I was just churning around, unproductive, for weeks.

Then, a poke in the eye from the universe, in the form of a brain-damaged letter to the editor of our local paper by a dittohead claiming that global warming is a myth. It was truly spectacular in its ignorance of the conventions both of English and science. (I would link to the original letter, but it seems not to be available on the Sakonnet Times site.)

You can get the gist — if not the full partisan rancor — from the excerpts in my response.

A little step, perhaps, out of a cave and back into the light.

Remembering Tavis Riker

Tavis Riker playing at the Landmark, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 9/18/88

Tavis Riker died Saturday in a swimming accident. Tavis was a good friend, an awesome musician, and and endlessly inventive, wonderful guy. We would talk for hours, watch videos, jam in the garage – he played guitar at our wedding – we were working on a song remembering warren zevon, hell, the world is an empty place this morning.

Tavis Flickr stream

Flipped open a book of his poetry and found this.

I'm fine with the wolf at the door
the color of confusion's aura, six strings strong
soul on the distant shore, today is burning
and a careless tongue told the tale (broken bottles)
dawn presents "now," lure of the crippled projector
mating call to disaster

from Radical Shadows, 1991, Penships Press.

When all you can ask for is a better idiot.

Expectations of competence in government may never have been lower than in the wake of the botched response to the Katrina tragedy.

Via the Washington Post
"Bureaucracy has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area," Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, said on CBS's "Early Show.""So I'm asking Congress, please investigate this now. Take whatever idiot they have at the top of whatever agency and give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot."

The buck brakes briefly here, then speeds off...

Trent Lott accused "papers like the Washington Post" of making political hay, while Jesse Jackson, clearly exhausted, tied it to the tail of just about every policy of the Administration from environment to war. When his handlers sent W out to admit the mistake, they pointed him, like a guided back-slapping missile, at the most likely fall guy...

Maureen Dowd in the NYT
Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association - admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center.

Was he sacked instantly? No, our tone-deaf president hailed him in Mobile, Ala., yesterday: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Translation: "Brownie, you're going to take one for the team."

Disaster and [lack of] response

Yesterday, Daily Kos had this post calling attention to indifference of the Administration to clearly articulated, highly public warnings. This was not a disaster which was unforseen. It really makes you wonder if anyone with a functioning brain works for Homeland Security or FEMA.

Via Daily Kos, from the October, 2004 National Geographic

But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however--the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm... .

Ignoring the obvious seems to be this Administation's strong suit.

Jack's monetarist fantasy...

In the car this morning, Jack was musing out loud. "I wish we were really rich," he says. Pauses. "I wish we had M dollars."

Parents gushing about their kids is standard fare, but it is frightening when a 5-year-old appears to understand economics better than the President.

Jack and the Rexen

Our last weekend of the summer, Jack and I went to the Roger Williams Zoo. In addition to the wonderful elephants (one was completely submerged, using her trunk like a snorkel) and the perennial favorite naked mole rats ("Just like Rufus," sez Jack), there was a display of Jurassic animatronics. The accompanying "what killed the dinos" copy was fairly predictable, as the curators tried to hew a middle line among the Deccan Traps advocates and the Alvarez contingent. Rubber or not, it really does give you a different sense of them to stand in a clearing with one of the buggers in front of you.