Friday, September 30, 2005

Never Trust a Grown Man Named "Scooter"

At last, the NY Times reporter-who-didn't, Judith Miller, is free. She was finally released from her confidentiality agreement with VP Cheney's Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby and testified today on the whys and wherefores of his and Carl Rove's leakage of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity.

Soon, we hope, the right guys will be off to prison or at least off the government's payroll. One of those two buggers should be indicted by Halloween. Trick or Treat.

As for Miller, God bless her, she didn't even write the damn story that outed Plame's CIA operative status. That was Bob Novak, a washed up hack of a columnist who is now suspended from CNN for cursing and walking off the set during a live broadcast. (Suddenly, James Carville was able to offen him -- amazing) Miller, in fact, wrote no story related to the matter. Eventually she will, I'm sure, and that should be a real page-turner.

Watching Those Lemmings in Texas

Last week I watched the long, long lines of SUVs sitting on the highways outside Houston, sitting ... waiting ... running out of gas. Looking at the helicopter shots of miles of stopped traffic, I had to laugh -- I mean, really, I just couldn't help it.

See, here were all these people trying to evacuate to avoid injury in a hurricane. They were doing the right thing. Unfortunately, they left some of their common sense back at home, locked up tight. Here you are on the interstate in the midst of many miles of stopped traffic. Coming the opposite direction are three lanes of open pavement with a car here and their occasionally.

And you sit there? In your kick-ass $50,000 this-thing-can-climb-Everest SUV? No, I don't think so.

I think you drive over (or IN) the grassy meridian and you carefully proceed up the breakdown lane in the opposite direction. In 30 seconds, 5,000 people are behind you. It's an emergency for crying out loud. Hey, if a cop stops you, take the ticket. Happily PAY the ticket. But sit there like a sack of dirt, run out of gas and tell reporters (as many did) that you'll now wait for the government to come and gas you up?

These are the self-reliant Texans we've heard so much about? The lone star state? Unimpressive.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More old taxes

Regretably, Catherine DeVine's denial of owing old taxes (2000 and 2001) to Orange County are false. She does owe them, according to Jo Roberson, Director or Orange County's Revenue Department. When I corresponded directly with Catherine, she said she was suprised that I "would rely on such an unreliable source" (the County's online records). "Those taxes are paid," she declared.

Well, they're not paid. According to Roberson, there is a payment plan now in place to resolve the debt (with interest) but the fact is that this alderman candidate owes the county money that was due five years ago.

So, there are two problems here. First is a candidate for public office with years-old unpaid taxes who hopes to be spending the people's money. That part is up the the people of Carrboro to resolve for themselves.

The second, however, is her response to the information itself ... declaring, falsely, that the taxes were paid and impugning the tax office's recordkeeping to boot. I have some experience with the Orange County tax office, both as a taxpayer and as a reporter. I have always found their staff to be helpful, knowledgeable completely professional. Our Revenue Department is rated as among the best in this state. I don't appreciate Catherine's describing the office or its online records as "such an unreliable source."

It seems to me that beyond the money, Catherine DeVine owes the people of Carrboro and the county taxpayers an explanation.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Texas-sized blast from mutha nature

Just for the record, when Rita knocks the states of Texas AND Louisiana for a loop, certainly doubling the hurricane damages bill for the federal government, I'll betcha that our fearless leader, George II will stare straight into the camera and say (again) that we still don't need any form of taxpayer sacrifice to cover the cost. I'm not talking about jacking up tax rates for average folks, but criminy, we need to let those cuts for the very, very rich sunset as they were enacted to do.

But George II will want to "stay the course" and keep his rich white boy welfare program in place. Lord, how I wish our system would allow a recall election.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Taxing Questions

It must be too dry a topic, but when people run for office, someone should look up and see whether or not they've paid their taxes. After all, if elected they're going to be spending money that comes from those of us who do get the job done.

The first race I'm looking at this year is that of Carrboro's Board of Aldermen and, unfortunately, I've found one of the candidates, Catherine DeVine, in serious delinquency. She owes Orange County $239.31 for her 2000 taxes and interest on her 1994 Mazda and $216.29 in 2001 taxes and interest on the same vehicle, whose registration is now blocked. That means she can't sell the car without satisfying the tax bill.

I checked out the other candidates and found either no records (Haven-O'Donnell, Ryan) or bills paid in full (Herrera, Gist).

Pointing this out gives me no pleasure. I happen to like Catherine DeVine. We'll hope she clears this up in short order.

Friday, September 02, 2005

A word about "Naysaying"

It has already begun, of course. If you're criticizing the Bush Administration, then you're just throwing rocks and this "won't help the victims in New Orleans."

Bullshit. Scream, yell, curse and if at all possible, do it in front of a TV camera. That is probably the ONLY thing that has or will save the 25,000 at the New Orleans Convention Center. Speak out. Be loud.

Don't think that's necessary? Well, if you were too poor or too sick (or both) to evacuate New Orleans and now you're stuck there, it's pretty much your fault, according to FEMA head Michael Brown, who says that relief efforts are going very well.


New Orleans meltdown

Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff has a favorite talking point in his litany of excuses for the New Orleans disaster. "We've had two disasters," he says. He goes on to cite that advent of the hurricane, followed by the flooding.

That's what he has to excuse himself from leaving 25,000 people at the New Orleans convention center for five days without food & water - gee, how was he supposed to know that a hurricane striking a below sea level city would be followed by floods? What is he, a genius?

The relief effort is going just great, he goes on to say. Everyone is doing an outstanding job. He should list a third disaster - his hiring. This particular natural disaster - a Cat 4 or 5 hurricane striking New Orleans - is among the most planned-for in emergency preparedness. It is a classic scenario, easily anticipated. Chertoff says, however, that you can't fly helicopters and drive trucks in a hurricane. Wow, that's lame. The storm didn't hit the whole country. So ... they couldn't figure out an approach from the west? Is this a cartoon government or what?

Like that terrible September day four years ago, we are reminded now of the media's power. Were it not for cameras reaching the conventions center to show us bathroom sinks filled and overflowing with human waste, dead bodies in lawn chairs and lying on the ground and children too tired to cry anymore, we would not know this story first hand.We would be left with smartly dressed liars in comfortable Washington offices declaring that everything is going great.

The people actually doing the relief work are, obviously, working their tails off and performing heroically, but no one ever doubted that. On this Friday morning, there is no public official on the site of that convention center, where there is a desperate and dying population of a small town.

President Bush will "survey the damage" from his helicopter, setting foot only at the New Orleans airport to make a speech. Isn't that just what the suffering and dying need? Speeches about what a great job Chertoff is doing. He'll also be on the ground in Mississippi and Alabama where it's safer.

Before departing D.C. this morning, Bush said that relief efforts were not adequate. Do you suppose that he'd be doing that without the media's work here? And what does this tell us about how things really are going on his other little project in Iraq?