John Furie Zacharias
having a bad day in a strange place
Thunderstorms Anywhere

Thunderstorms in the Imajica

 The different ways I don't like you 
 in a list that may never become organized
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Thursday, September 29, 2005
Blaming Katrina Poll

The extremely scientific Thunderstorms in the Imajica poll, "Who to blame for Katrina deaths", has revealed that most people don't blame any of the political leaders at the federal, state or local level.

The majority of people blame "no one" because "shit happens."  A few people blame everyone in the political food chain and a few blame God.

Here are a few of my own blame game observations.

George Bush was on vacation and relied on his cronies to handle the situation.  To his credit and likely from his experience with hurricanes in Florida, where his brother is the governor, he cut through some red tape by declaring a state of emergency before it hit.  But then, Bush was caught sleeping at the wheel when his minions failed to get the job done after the hurricane made landfall.

Another thing no one has picked up on, in my humble opinion: during many of the televised walk-through tours with governors and FEMA officials, Bush constantly referred to his location as "this part of the world," rather than anywhere specific like the Mississippi Gulf Coast or New Orleans.

To me, this seemed like Bush was so incredibly disconnected from the facts on the ground -- like he often is concerning Iraq, talking about "the broader Middle East."  I'm fairly certain that some black Americans didn't appreciate being called "refugees" from "this part of the world", as if they are not part of the United States.

FEMA director Michael Brown gave sworn testimony to a congressional committee, the other day.  In perfect Bush administration demeanor, he took no responsibility for his own failings, but instead blamed state and local government leaders in Louisiana.  If things went so well in Mississippi, then I imagine Dick Cheney's obligatory tour of the Gulf Coast being marked by a heckler following his entourage around screaming, "Go fuck yourself," was just how people in Mississippi greet each other.  Bottom line: Brown is just another arrogant and self-deluded Bush administration political weasel.

Governor Blanco will not be Louisiana's governor the next time people get a chance to vote.  I honestly can not point to anything that she did to help the people of her state.

No one blamed Mayor Ray Nagin in the poll, but Nagin himself blamed "being in the moment" for his angry comments toward his political chain of command.  His police force faces a long and nasty review process in the coming months.  GOP pundits trying to defend Bush and Brown point out his failings, but I wonder if they would be blaming him so much if he was a republican?  Perhaps.  I think I heard that the battered republicans are eating their own trying to hang on to power in Washington, D.C, nowadays.

All of the above was a choice I thought would have received more votes than "No one".

God smote them.  Although God was unavailable for comment at the time of this entry, his spokesperson issued a terse statement: "What the hell do you want?  Smiting is his job!"  But, in all seriousness, the other night by chance, I heard something even more troubling on the CBN channel than Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of the Venezuelan president, Chavez.  I heard an evangelical pastor say, "God has swept away all the evil in New Orleans and the Armies of God should take back that city."

Yeah.  Of course this pastor was a fat white guy, hiding his southern racism behind his bible and the new code words of compassionate conversativism.  Funny though, he looked more like Karl Rove than Bill Bennett.

[updates] Here's an interesting article: "25 Questions about the Murder of New Orleans" by Nation writers, Mike Davis & Anthony Fontenat, via Yahoo.

Also, concerning Katrina and the media: "From Deference to Outrage: Katrina and the Press" by Jay Rosen on ThinkPress.

[Fullscreen] :: DOOM movie trailer - Official DOOM site

Monday, September 26, 2005
Cindy Sheehan arrested at White House

U.S. president Bush and his staff were making sure no one would think he was on vacation during and after hurricane Rita, after taking such abuse for being asleep at the wheel for hurricane Katrina.  He's been to dozens of briefings and photo ops these days, but not all of them go as planned.  Dubya's dog, Barney, could not be reached for comment concerning the fish stick incident.  In related news, Gold Star Families for Peace member, Cindy Sheehan participated in the planned United For Peace and Justice non-violent civil disobedience act today.

Attempting to deliver the list of names of the U.S. and Iraqi dead to the White House today, she was arrested with about 370 other protestors in front of the White House.  Apparently, Bush did not want to meet with Cindy.

[Headphones] :: Live Net Radio Stream - Enemy Combatant Radio

Sunday, September 25, 2005
Anti-war storm hits DC

After the horrific scenes of the apparent abandonment of New Orleans residents were played constantly in the media for the past three weeks, the planned ANSWER coaliton anti-war rally in Washington, DC sought to spotlight the Bush administration's domestic policy inequities, plus their anti-war movement.  Despite the weather, more than 100,000 people gathered on the ellipse near the White House Saturday to protest and to listen to speakers from many coalition members, activists, progressive polticians and celebrities.  Cindy Sheehan, recently thrust into the national spotlight from her month-long vigil at the president's Crawford ranch, also spoke at the DC anti-war rally.  A transcript of her remarks is available on After Downing Street.  Saturday's rally played very little in the national TV media over the weekend, except on C-SPAN [real video stream], due to the focus of attention on hurricane Katrina and Rita.

In addition to the anti-war rally in DC, companion rallies of varying size and scope were also held in cities around the country.

Here are some web sites providing you with reports and photos of the the anti-war rallies on Saturday:

Live protest blogging in DC
ANSWER in Los Angeles
Indy Media in San Fransisco - Bay area

If you have info on other rallies, please leave a web address in a comment.

Issues to which the ANSWER coalition is trying to draw attention:

  • Stop the War in Iraq
  • End Colonial Occupation from Iraq to Palestine to Haiti
  • Support the Palestinian People’s Right of Return
  • Stop the Threats Against Venezuela, Cuba, Iran & North Korea
  • U.S. Out of the Philippines
  • U.S. Out of Puerto Rico
  • Bring all the troops home now
  • Stop the Racist, anti-Immigrant and anti-Labor Offensive at Home, Defend Civil Rights
  • Military Recruiters Out of Our Schools and Communities
You might remember me blogging about the United for Peace and Justice anti-war rally during last summer's Republican National Convention in New York City.  It seemed most hopeful, promising and productive to be pro-ctive before the election, despite the lack of valuable political alternatives.  In contrast to my post-election return to Zen Apathy now that we have to endure four more years of surrealistic BushWorld incompetence and the evangelical disconnect from the people, United for Peace and Justice continues their anti-war, anti-imperialistic activist struggle.  UFPJ's planned non-violent direct action (civil disobedience) activity will make some noise Monday, I'm sure.

I have to say that it is a bit surreal to see the far liberal-left and the far libertarian-right come together over the issues of nation-building and Dubya's ineffectual flip-flopping foreign policy.  No one likes a Democrusader that sacrifices conservative domestic spending on bloated deficits for the war machine of oil and occupation, apparently.  Democrats are not given a pass when they continue to be perceived as the whining party of impotence, either.

Meanwhile, the GOP is stuck in the tar pit and mired down by their waste of post-election "political capital" by first sinking their teeth into ther third rail of privatizing social security, which was a dismal failure, despite the national White House lollapalooza tour of the nation.  Then, the social conservative priorities of the evangelical-right of Terri Schiavo.  Then, hurricane Katrina ripped the lid off of the Bush administration's ball jar seal of silence of total incompetence by the reality of his political crony appointments to bloated bureaucracies (pick one: FEMA, UN, DoD, VA, whatever).

Welcome to politics driven by an evangelical campaign-stumping idiot, wrapped in debt and drowning in a foreign policy quagmire.

[Headphones] :: Democrusader (MP3 Stream)

Saturday, September 24, 2005
Hurricane Rita Roars Ashore

Hurricane Katrina's ugly little sister, Rita, made landfall along the Louisiana-Texas border in the dark of the pre-dawn hours Saturday.  Rita's wrath was mostly confined to eastern TX and western LA, though.  Rita missed Houston, but New Orleans flooded again.

Sometimes, it's difficult for people who live in areas that are never hit by hurricanes to understand the widespread destruction caused by these meterological monsters.  Extreme winds carve out the landscape over a hundred miles wide.  If you want to really wrap your mind around it -- get in your car, drive two hours away from your home and imagine that everything in between is destroyed, flattened, and chewed up by God's lawn mower.

Another destructive feature of a hurricane is that it continually spawns tornadoes along the outside edges of itself in the feeder bands.  So, even if you are not directly in the path of the highest winds surrounding the eye wall, chances are good that your area could see multiple tornadoes or extreme straight line winds over the many hours of the storm's duration.

Despite the tragic flooding of New Orleans -- twice now -- hurricanes literally dump water everywhere from tsunami storm surge on the coast and rainfall measured in feet everywhere else.  You've all seen the horrific devastation and death caused by the flooding of New Orleans.  Typically, in most hurricanes, more deaths are actually caused by inland flooding every year than by outright destruction along the coast because people evacuate the coastline.

News, information, photos or video of hurricane Katrina and Rita:


On the scene - reporters blog
How to help - missing/found persons, charities, sheter and pet info
Photos - multiple slideshows of hurricane Katrina and Rita
Video - about one hundred streaming video clips [WMP]


NOLA - Everything New Orleans by the Times Picayune
WWL - TV, radio, extensive coverage and helpful info

[Headphones] :: I for an I - Ten Speed Indian

Monday, September 19, 2005
SUV crack and other price-gouging

With Katrina's evil twin Rita churning through the Gulf of Mexico, it's only common sense that gas prices will rise again.  Offshore oil rigs are in the path of hurricane Rita.  And like Katrina, refinery and distribution of energy products will be affected.

My image above shows the rise in national gas price averages and the components of cost in percentiles.  The 2005 figure of $2.29 was only current as of July 2005, and doesn't represent any data post hurricane Katrina, when gas prices spun out of control in some regions.  If you want to understand what normal factors play a role in the price of gasoline, read this gas price primer from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE).

If you see local gas stations with ridiculously high gasoline prices, report that price-gouging activity using this DoE Gas Price Watch form.  Check this form now to see what information you will need to provide while scribbling down some notes on the dash board of your car.

I know that in Florida price-gouging is legally defined as a price increase of "gross disparity" above normal retail prices 30 days before an emergency, like a  hurricane.  Check your own state's attorney general office for more information about filing price-gouging complaints for any other consumer items, such as portable power generators, or even hotel room rates for evacuees.

Even after hurricane Rita passes through the Gulf and eventually turns into a gentle sprinkle for Jesus' vegetable garden in Grand Rapids, Michigan, gas prices may eventually rise to $4-5 per gallon, this time next year.  It wouldn't surprise me to see that increase in gas prices in the jittery commodity markets simply in anticipation of hurricane season next year.

The corporations that control various components of the price of gasoline are not making capital investments to lower the price of gasoline, and I don't expect that they will.  There is a concept called Peak Oil.  Why invest or spend billions of corporate dollars to build even one more refinery when the supply is on the downslope?

If the easily attainable supplies of crude oil are waning, the only other market factor affecting the price is on the demand side.  You, the consumer, have to save and conserve however you can.  It may even mean a lifestyle change for you during the next 5 or 10 years, whether you like it or not.

In the meantime, there are simple things you can do to conserve your personal fuel consumption and save yourself a few bucks along the way.  Making sure your tires are properly inflated on that SUV can save you 10%.  Plan ahead and combine errands.  Go grocery shopping with your neighbor.  Carpool and drive the diamond lane while waving at the lonely idiots stranded in normal traffic.

Personally, I ride a mountain bike with a basket in the front to my local grocery store.  I wear a backpack.  Every time I buy groceries in this manner, I remind myself that this is a small inconvenience for me, when brave men and women in the military are being killed in Iraq, not for WMDs, but for oil.  Conserve fuel -- save a soldier's life.

While I realize most families can't ride a bike to buy their groceries or run their errands, there are practical alternatives for millions of families in the U.S. instead of driving that SUV to the grocery store for a forgotten gallon of milk or loaf of bread.  You people are smart.  You simply need to start thinking about it, even if your reason is just $5.00/gallon gasoline.

[Headphones] :: Evil Stevie: Activate! - JfZ

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