Words, words, words

Listening to Public Radio this morning, I heard Michael Feldman put out the line that George Bush had announced his new program "No child left insured" and I had to pull my car over to the side of the road I was laughing so hard.

Like most humor, it was designed to cover real pain. By changing a few words, a Bushism was applied to a Bush reality.

It made me think of how Bush has used words to "redefine" so many things that used to be construed as bad, and are now seen as normal. Take the definition of "torture", for instance. We know now that Bush had Gonzalez come up with new legal definitions for ways of questioning those captured or arrested which, although once considered torture (waterboarding, forced no-sleep in uncomfortable positions, lack of protective clothing in all temperature conditions, etc.), could now be seen as "OK by me" methods of questioning. This lets Bush sit and say "Americans do not torture" on television with the honest smirk on his face he used when commenting on capital punishment victims in Texas ("Don't kill me, don't kill me, heh heh".)

Or how he used words like "We're here to help you" to Katrina flood victims the one or two times he's visited New Orleans in the last couple of years... which means "we're here to help you stay out of the ninth ward, now that you've left."

Words that say one thing but mean their polar opposite have defined the Bush Administration since the beginning... and it doesn't look like anything will change, right up to the end.

Under The LobsterScope

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Crumbling infrastructure, collapsing integrity

It's a sorrowful season of American anniversaries.  The beginning of the month was a time to reflect on the devastation of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans.  Now, we'll remember 9/11/01.  August 1, 2008, will be a day to remember the senseless loss of life due to the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. All three disasters share a common thread: a need to rebuild and reconstruct.

There is an old adage that crisis and adversity bring out the true nature of a person's character. Shortly after the water receded in New Orleans, President Bush dove into the rebuilding tide by attempting to exempt post-hurricane reconstruction projects from the Davis-Bacon Act, the prevailing-wage law. This response displayed a brazen disrespect for the men and women participating in rebuilding New Orleans.

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New Orleans and the Future of American Education

[I hope this post by UFT President Randi Weingarten on Hurricane Katrina and its continuing impact on New Orleans schools proves interesting. It's crossposted from Edwize and Eduwonk, where it originally appeared.]

Today we mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The images of widespread destruction and needless suffering and death that flashed across our television screens two years ago remain fresh in our collective memory, if only because they were so stark and terrible. For a moment, the reality of the "other America," living in poverty and shut out of the American dream, became real for all Americans. We were shamed by the knowledge that thousands of people, many of them poor or of color, were left for days and days without essential food, water, shelter, medicine and health care as a result of the catastrophic failure of our government. In the wealthiest and most powerful nation of the world, such a failure was a monumental travesty.

In the two years since Katrina, those images have faded from our television screens. But the government's abandonment of the poor and working people of New Orleans continues today. In June, I went to New Orleans, together with UFT leaders Michelle Bodden and Leo Casey, to further our partnership and assistance to our sister local, the United Teachers of New Orleans [UTNO]. I was stunned by what I heard and what I saw: it is hard to find the words that fully convey the enormity of the wrong that is being done today in New Orleans.

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Edwards leading by example on Katrina

This will be a short diary. I found this article today:

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Ed wards-Foreclosure.html?_r=1&hp&o ref=slogin

This story caught my eye because people ask what's the difference between competence or building unity versus leadership by example. Well, this article nicely explains it for me.

I am sure partisans will argue this or that candidate has done much on Katrina. I don't doubt they have. I am sure also that there will be those who will try to impugn Edwards in someway. "He's not doing enough.""He's" this. "He's" that. None of which will give him credit for doing something that no one else thought to do. That no one asked him or thought to ask him to do.

However, for me, if you want to understand whether someone gets a time or zeitgeist of the times, you look to how out in front of an issue they are.

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MS-Gov: Haley Barbour's Relatives, Associates Profit from Katrina

Although the Bush administration and the Republican Party nationally were clearly hurt politically by their inability to effectively respond to Hurricane Katrina, on a more local level it was Democrats who seemed to bear the brunt of the political backlash. For instance, while Mississippi's Republican Governor Haley Barbour, a former career lobbyist and chairman of the Republican National Committee, has seen his approval rating remain fairly good, Louisiana's Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco has seen her numbers stick at or below the low-40s since the deluge. Unsurprisingly, then, Barbour is running for reelection this fall while Blanco is not.

But should Mississippians turn a skeptical eye towards their Governor, perhaps those numbers could begin to move. An article on the Bloomberg newswire today by Timothy J. Burger may just provide that opportunity for Mississippi voters to rethink their views of Barbour.

Many Mississippians have benefited from Governor Haley Barbour's efforts to rebuild the state's devastated Gulf Coast in the two years since Hurricane Katrina. The $15 billion or more in federal aid the former Republican national chairman attracted has reopened casinos and helped residents move to new or repaired homes.

Among the beneficiaries are Barbour's own family and friends, who have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from hurricane-related business. A nephew, one of two who are lobbyists, saw his fees more than double in the year after his uncle appointed him to a special reconstruction panel. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in June raided a company owned by the wife of a third nephew, which maintained federal emergency- management trailers.

Meanwhile, the governor's own former lobbying firm, which he says is still making payments to him, has represented at least four clients with business linked to the recovery.

Reading through the entire article, the details sound even worse. Two of Haley Barbour's nephews -- one of whom, Henry Barbour, was the Governor's campaign manager during the 2003 campaign -- registered as lobbyists for the first time almost immediately after their uncle was sworn in. Henry Barbour, in particular, saw his fortunes rise, both after his uncle's successful campaign and then after his uncle appointed him as unpaid executive director of the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal, with his lobbying fees growing from nothing to $150,000 in the Governor's first year in office to $379,000 in 2006, the first full year after Hurricane Katrina hit. At the same time, a number of those enriching Henry Barbour through plush lobbying contracts were also plying Haley Barbour with campaign contributions.

This is all just some of the information contained in the article. Other details bring up similar questions. Burger makes clear that "no evidence has surfaced that Barbour violated the law," but quotes the head of a government watchdog group who explains that these revelations raise "many red flags."

It's not clear that there is much to gain for local Democrats in the short run by hitting on these allegations. By most accounts this fall's gubernatorial election is not supposed to be terribly close, and the Democratic nominee, John Eaves, appears to be running, at least in part, on bringing back school prayer. That said, there are those who view Barbour as Vice Presidential material -- or even potentially Presidential material (you know how Republicans love their lobbyists like Fred Thompson and Haley Barbour...) -- so there are long-term benefits to the Democrats giving this news a full airing, both in Mississippi and inside the Beltway, to help undercut Barbour before he can act on national ambitions.

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