Wednesday, September 28, 2005

American way of life

I actually remember when Ari was quoted saying the following some 4 years ago. This was around the time of Cheney's Energy Task Force controversy where he seemed to have a lot of pals come in, off the record, and give advice on how many more tax breaks it would take to convince them to build new refineries.

Q Does the President believe that, given the amount of energy Americans consume per capita, how much it exceeds any other citizen in any other country in the world, does the President believe we need to correct our lifestyles to address the energy problem?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's a big no. The President believes that it's an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one. And we have a bounty of resources in this country. What we need to do is make certain that we're able to get those resources in an efficient way. . .

Q So Americans should go on consuming as much more energy than any other citizens in any other countries of the world, as long as they want?

MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, the President believes that the American people are very wise and that, given the right incentives, they will know how and they will make their own right determinations about how much they can conserve . . . But the President also believes that the American people's use of energy is a reflection of the strength of our economy, of the way of life that the American people have come to enjoy.

Ari Fleischer
Press briefing
May 7, 2001

That was then, this is now. . .

Two other points I want to make is, one, we can all pitch in by using -- by being better conservers of energy. I mean, people just need to recognize that the storms have caused disruption and that if they're able to maybe not drive when they -- on a trip that's not essential, that would helpful. The federal government can help, and I've directed the federal agencies nationwide -- and here's some ways we can help. We can curtail nonessential travel. If it makes sense for the citizen out there to curtail nonessential travel, it darn sure makes sense for federal employees. We can encourage employees to carpool or use mass transit. And we can shift peak electricity use to off-peak hours. There's ways for the federal government to lead when it comes to conservation.

George W. Bush
Press Briefing
September 26, 2005

Monday, September 26, 2005

Blindfaced lies

Few things in life are more fun than observing a politician attempt to squirm out of an obvious baldfaced lie.

In June, Frist ordered his portfolio managers to sell his family's shares in HCA Inc., the nation's largest hospital chain, which was founded by Frist's father and brother. A month later, the stock's price dropped nine percent in a single day because of a warning from the company about weakening earnings.

Stockholders are not permitted to trade stock based on inside information; whether Frist possessed any appears to be at the heart of probes by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A few years ago Senator Frist referred to his blind trust:

"I put this into a blind trust. So as far as I know, I own no HCA stock."

Events have conspired to render that phrase quaint, apparently as per this statement from his staff.

. . . the senator 'had no information about the company or its performance that was not available to the public when he directed the trustees to sell the HCA stock.'"

That sentence is parsed so tightly it literally squeaks. What the public has available are obscure filings that the SEC requires when certain corporate managers buy or sell stock. Obviously, if the corporate CEOs have a clue how the company is doing, they see the oncoming train-wreck in the share price and bail out ahead of time. Those sales would show up in public documents and so that's the line of reasoning behind the statement.

Except that it's a pretty good guess that Sen Frist wasn't scouring the internet looking for such information. He probably heard thru the grapevine from friends he has that still work for the corporation his father founded and so decided to bail out of his positions in his "blind trust" before it subsequently dropped nearly 30%"

Frist, if you'll recall, is a serial prevaricator. His famous hour long review of Terry Schiavo's video resulted in the following diagnosis:"I have looked at the video footage. Based on the footage provided to me, which was part of the facts of the case, she does respond."

After the autopsy revealed that not only was Schiavo blind but half her brain was necrotic muck, Frist responded, "I never said 'She responded."

Friday, September 23, 2005

Beating the dead horse

Ok, one more time for now, then I'm gonna give it some rest, but I'm not the only one with a fascination for Festus's semantic gymnastics:

White House Briefing reader J. Harley McIlrath of Grinnell, Iowa, e-mailed me yesterday some insightful questions about just one sentence of Bush's speech.

In fact, his questions about that one sentence alone were more penetrating and important than any of the coverage I read of Bush's whole speech this morning.

The sentence from Bush: "The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission."

McIlrath wrote:

"1. Who are 'the terrorists?' He's talking about Iraq. Are 'the insurgents' also 'the terrorists?' Has Bush ever defined just who 'the terrorists' are?

"2. What would constitute a 'win' for the terrorists? What do they want? Do we know? Has Bush ever asked himself what 'the terrorists' want and whether or not it's reasonable? Tactics aside, what do they want? Don't tell me 'they hate freedom.'

"3. What constitutes 'losing our nerve?' Is it losing one's nerve to pull resources back from an ineffectual approach and apply them to an approach that is more promising? How many times in WWII did we pull resources off one front to reinforce another?

"4. What is 'the mission.' Can we abandon a 'mission' that has never been defined? To quote George Harrison: If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.

"Imagine if the press corps took this one short sentence and forced Bush to define his terms."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Symbolic logic

I dunno what else you call it:

Bush said: "You know, something we -- I've been thinking a lot about how America has responded, and it's clear to me that Americans value human life, and value every person as important. And that stands in stark contrast, by the way, to the terrorists we have to deal with. You see, we look at the destruction caused by Katrina, and our hearts break. They're the kind of people who look at Katrina and wish they had caused it. We're in a war against these people. It's a war on terror. These are evil men who target the suffering. They killed 3,000 people on September the 11th, 2001. And they've continued to kill. See, sometimes we forget about the evil deeds of these people."

Got that?

Katrina = Bad,
Terrorism = Evil,
Bad = Evil,
therefore, Katrina = Terrorism.

Scary ain't it?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Google Bombed

Another one that's too good to touch. . .

"If you do a Google search on the word [failure] or the phrase [miserable failure], the top result is currently the White House’s official biographical page for President Bush. We've received some complaints recently from users who assume that this reflects a political bias on our part. I'd like to explain how these results come up in order to allay these concerns.

Google's search results are generated by computer programs that rank web pages in large part by examining the number and relative popularity of the sites that link to them. By using a practice called googlebombing, however, determined pranksters can occasionally produce odd results. In this case, a number of webmasters use the phrases [failure] and [miserable failure] to describe and link to President Bush's website, thus pushing it to the top of searches for those phrases. We don't condone the practice of googlebombing, or any other action that seeks to affect the integrity of our search results, but we're also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up. "

-- Marissa Mayer, Director of Consumer Web Products at Google, says President George W. Bush is likely to remain the butt of a long-running Googlebombing joke for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Just in case

Like, I'm not the first one to think of this. . .

A good start

That's the punchline to the lawyer joke, "what do you call 1000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?"

Well, the news about the CEO of Tyco is a good start too. . .

Ex-Tyco Executives Get 8 to 25 Years in Prison
By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, Published: September 20, 2005

L. Dennis Kozlowski, the former chief executive of Tyco International who was convicted of looting the company of $150 million, was sentenced yesterday to 8 1/3 to 25 years in a New York State prison, the latest corporate figure to be handed a lengthy prison term in a corruption case. Judge Michael J. Obus of State Supreme Court in Manhattan also ordered Mr. Kozlowski to pay $167 million in restitution and fines.

Handing down the sentence in a packed courtroom, Judge Obus said yesterday: "The crimes at issue here were violations of the defendants' positions of trust and their fiduciary duty on a grand scale. They caused damage to Tyco and to others, including the shareholders who are Tyco's owners and who, like the investing public, generally should be able to rely on the integrity of the management of publicly traded companies."

Mr. Kozlowski, 58, became a symbol of corporate greed for a $6,000 shower curtain, as well as a $2 million birthday party in Sardinia for his wife that was partly paid for by the company. In the two years before his fall in 2001, Mr. Kozlowski made more than $330 million in profits from exercising stock options and selling stock grants, in addition to his salary and bonus of about $5 million a year. But his lawyers have suggested that after the civil litigation, on top of the fines and restitution ordered yesterday, he could be bankrupt.

New York generally requires that criminals with sentences longer than six years go to maximum-security prisons, to be mixed among men convicted of murder and other violent crimes.

I bought Tyco at 47 just before the stock blew up and sold, gratefully, two years later at 27. Thanks, Koz, hope you like your new friends, enjoy the food. . .

Monday, September 19, 2005


This from Reuters:

Power-dressing Aussie leaves trail of destruction
Fri Sep 16, 2005 8:37 AM BST

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian man built up a 40,000-volt charge of static electricity in his clothes as he walked, leaving a trail of scorched carpet and molten plastic and forcing firefighters to evacuate a building.

Frank Clewer, who was wearing a woollen shirt and a synthetic nylon jacket, was oblivious to the growing electrical current that was building up as his clothes rubbed together.

When he walked into a building in the country town of Warrnambool in the southern state of Victoria on Thursday, the electrical charge ignited the carpet.

"It sounded almost like a firecracker", Clewer told Australian radio on Friday.

"Within about five minutes, the carpet started to erupt."

Employees, unsure of the cause of the mysterious burning smell, telephoned firefighters who evacuated the building.

"There were several scorch marks in the carpet, and we could hear a cracking noise -- a bit like a whip -- both inside and outside the building", said fire official Henry Barton.

"We tested his clothes with a static electricity field metre and measured a current of 40,000 volts, which is one step shy of spontaneous combustion, where his clothes would have self-ignited," Barton said.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Number one or number two?

Like Festus has to ask?

" 'I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?' he wrote. A photographer with a high-powered zoom managed to capture the moment during yesterday's UN Security Council meeting, which was held to discuss threats to international peace and security. . . .

This one is just too damn easy, insert your own snarky comment here:


Tuesday, September 13, 2005


One of the small talents I've honed from taking acting classes is deconstructing dialogue to find what, at heart, the character is saying, what his point of view is, how he thinks. Maybe this is why I am frequently baffled at the apparent acceptance of Festus's complete and utter inability to speak coherently without a prepared text in his hand.

I was convinced after both sets of Presidential campaign debates that the country at large would rise up with gales of laughter at the very idea that Bush though he was presidential material. I see Festus's speach as an accurate reflection of the mental process by which he sees the world and makes decisions about policy.

Trust me, there's nothing there. . .

So here's a recent transcription of Festus-speak, then repeated with my snarkanalysis.

After all, the enemy wants to stop democracy. See, that's what they want to do. They want to kill enough people so that -- in the hopes that democracy won't go forward. They tried that prior to -- more than eight million Iraqis voting. They were unable to stop Iraqis from voting, because people want to be free. Deep in everybody's soul, regardless of your religion or where you live, is a desire to be free. And they can't stop it. And what we're going to do is help -- and they can't stop democracy from moving. And so what we're going to do is help make sure those elections are accessible to the Iraqi people.

After all, the enemy wants to stop democracy. Does he really see it in such simple terms? We have a radical Islamic insurgency that has declared war on us. From their viewpoint, democracy is irrelevant, they consider us invading infidels and want us off their land.

See, that's what they want to do. He's repeating himself.  

They want to kill enough people so that -- in the hopes that democracy won't go forward. This is classic Festus speak, he starts a sentence, comes to a complete halt and ends the sentence in a way that's discontinuous with how he started. How did he explain the connection between killing people and democracy not going forward?

They tried that prior to -- more than eight million Iraqis voting.  Again, trainwreck, he came to a full stop in thought and recycled something he just said."They tried that prior to what", I wonder? Who is "they"?

They were unable to stop Iraqis from voting, because people want to be free. No, they were unable to stop Iraqis from voting because the terrorists couldn't kill enough of them to scare them away. 

Deep in everybody's soul, regardless of your religion or where you live, is a desire to be free. How simple it all seems, why don't we get that? Now he's echoing a Rascals song, deep, huh?

And they can't stop it. And what we're going to do is help -- and they can't stop democracy from moving. Three consecutive disjointed phrases in a row, the third an instant replay.

And so what we're going to do is help make sure those elections are accessible to the Iraqi people. "And so" as if that was a closing summary of what he just said, which was devoid of content or explanation.

He said something, but didn't really say anything. I always wonder what thought process is he going thru? Does he just start speaking in hopes that he'll just come up with something coherent enough to pass for an answer by the time he stops? It's as if there are so many verbal landmines he's been programed to avoid that he self-censors himself so tightly that he can't simply articulate a smooth sentence that logically flows from the preceeding one and culminates in a conclusion. It's scary to me that this quality of intellect is running the country. . .

Oh, by the way, the question that was asked was:"Will what is needed to get this area back on its feet have any impact on the timing of troop withdrawals in Iraq?"

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Oops. . .

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees"

Festus said that today. It has a familiar ring to it because Condi Rice said something similar about planes hitting buildings during her confirmation hearings. ("I don't think anyone could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center." - May 17, 2002) She was incorrect then, because Clinton's transition team warned Bush of exactly that possibility, yet Bush decided he didn't want to "swat at flies" and directed a shift of focus on "Axis of Evil" nations instead of flies like Osama bin Laden.

Similarly I read that, the Festus administration made conscious decisions to downgrade the Federal Emergency Management Administration as well as cut funding that would have strengthened the levies in New Orleans. So to save a few million here and there and send the message to the states that the Federal government wasn't the answer to all their funding needs, thousands die unneccessiarly and billions in property damage are sustained because Festus didn't think it was worth the money.

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain

We at Heavy Sigh like to be fair and balanced, so here's Festus's elaboration on how he managed to say something so amazingly stupid.

No, what I was referring to is this. When that storm came by, a lot of people said we dodged a bullet. When that storm came through at first, people said, whew. There was a sense of relaxation, and that's what I was referring to. And I, myself, thought we had dodged a bullet. You know why? Because I was listening to people, probably over the airways, say, the bullet has been dodged. And that was what I was referring to.

Of course, there were plans in case the levee had been breached. There was a sense of relaxation in the moment, a critical moment. And thank you for giving me a chance to clarify that.

"Relaxation", "the bullet has been dodged", I'm surprised he left out "What's the difference?"