Value Voters Summit – An Eclectic Mix of Values, With “Obama Waffles”

What’s better than a gathering of 24%er’s at a conference which includes the conservative stylings of such “values” luminaries as Bill Bennett, Tom DeLay, Stephen Baldwin, Phyllis Schafly, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich? Why, the conservative entrepreneurial spirt and the sale of Obama Waffles, of course!

Commentary By: Richard Blair

You are excused if you missed the memo, but the annual Values Voters Summit is taking place this weekend in Washington, DC. I’m not going to write extensively about the summit, because quite frankly, it’s little more than another gathering of angry 24%’ers who think that George Bush has been too liberal on “values issues”. If you really want a blow-by-blow rundown of the summit (no, Larry Craig was not invited, as far as I can tell), go here.

Still, it’s always kind of interesting to check out the list of speakers at these kinds of events. Here’s a short run down of some of the highlighted guests, who are lecturing America this weekend on how to behave:

William Bennett – noted gambler and addict
Tom Delay – noted crook and future felon
Newt Gingrich – noted adulterer
Rudy Giuliani – see Gingrich, above (and noted cross-dresser)
Stephen Baldwin – noted “D”-list actor and drug and alcohol addict
J. Kenneth Blackwell – noted voter suppressionist & minority disenfranchiser

Draw your own conclusions.

Anyway, a big hit at the VVS has been the sales of Obama Waffles. (No, I’m not going to link to their site – I assume you, unlike John McCain, know how to work the google.) This culinary delight was apparently selling like hotcakes (no pun intended) to the fundie crowd, until event organizers took heat for the vendor booth and shut it down on Saturday afternoon. Here’s what the box looks like. Check out the top and the sides, as well as the front:

Thursday, April 30th, 2009 by Richard Blair |

Way to Evacuate, Brownie!

Mike Brown, who moved to greener pastures after completely screwing up the government respose to Katrina, has been evacuated from his home near Boulder, CO. No, he was not left to die as so many people were in New Orleans. Evidently FEMA works better nowadays.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

If only Bush were visiting Mike Brown this week we would have the finest possible ending to the Bush Administration, all filled with poetic justice and everything. But “Brownie,” the most potent symbol of the incompetence brought to us by Bush and Cheney these last eight years, brings us a moment of poetic justice nonetheless. You remember Brownie, the man who horrifically botched the government’s response to the Katrina disaster, at least partly through a failure to evacuate citizens. Well, Mike Brown himself was evacuated today because of wildfires in Colorado. Here it is from the Washington Post:

Former FEMA Administrator Michael Brown, a.k.a. “Brownie,” was among approximately 11,000 residents of Boulder, Colo. evacuated yesterday amid raging wildfires that have scorched at least 1,000 acres. After his eagerly anticipated resignation in Sept. 2005, the poster boy for the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina moved back to the Boulder area, where he once served as legal counsel to the Arabian Horse Association and now operates a disaster consulting business.

“I got back home to Boulder, the winds were just whipping up 60, 80 miles an hour, I was working in my home office, the dogs start barking and lo and behold there’s a Boulder County Sheriff with lights flashing saying there’s a mandatory evacuation,” Brown said during an interview this morning on KOA-AM’s “Colorado’s Morning News.”

The poetic irony of the whole thing makes me smile. The comments on the Washington Post article make me smile much more.

Friday, January 9th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Wasup? Change Is Coming

There’s a number of ways to frame elections. One of the most memorable is based upon Reagan’s “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” In the following video, the 2008 election is framed similarly utilizing the famous and funny “Wasup” beer commercial from a few years back.
Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Remember the “Wasup commercial for Budweiser? Well, there’s a new version for the 2008 election that’s certainly worth viewing. I think it may well be the most effective campaign commercial I’ve seen this election cycle. Take a look at both below and let me know what you think.

Budweiser’s “Wasup” Commercial
Wasup 2008 – Change

Saturday, October 25th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

Hurricane Ike: Myanmar Redux in the USA?

It’s been five days since Hurricane Ike hit the Texas gulf coast. Millions remain without power. The local, state, and federal governments have clamped a lid on media access and communications to the most affected areas. And the finger pointing for slow disaster response has started. Sound familiar?

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Earlier this year, a cyclone ripped through the Indian Ocean country of Myanmar (formerly Burma). The complete casualty figure will never be known, but hundreds of thousands died from the storm, flooding, and lack of basic services following the disaster.

The government regime in Myanmar was strongly criticized for many things in the aftermath. NGOs were not allowed into the affected area for weeks to provide relief assistance. Offers of help from foreign countries such as the U.S. were slow-tracked by the junta. Journalists were not allowed into the affected area to document the devastation. The government of Myanmar said it could handle the situation by itself (although it was plainly clear that this wasn’t the case), and didn’t want interference from outsiders. In a press conference at the White House on 5/5/08, two days after the disaster unfolded, First Lady Laura Bush was among the most critical of the Myanmar junta’s response:

The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta’s failure to meet its people’s basic needs.

I wonder if she would say that about the regime of her own husband, who visited the Hurricane Ike disaster area today, but left without making a statement of any sort.

It’s been almost five days since Ike ripped through southern Texas. This past Saturday, the media was wall-to-wall Ike, as the huge storm came ashore in Galveston, and tore a path well inland through Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city. The following day, when media reports started flowing in about blown out skyscraper windows, and power and basic services being knocked out, I had a gut feeling that things were pretty bad. Incidental reports that I was receiving through my own back channels only verified the extent of the damage in Houston.

But precious little information has been coming in regarding the situation south of Houston.

A no-fly zone has been established over the most devastated areas of the barrier islands on the Texas gulf coast, including Galveston, ostensibly “to provide a safe environment for disaster response and relief operations”. The thing is, no one has been able to determine who issued the no-fly order. News organization helicopters and others have not been allowed into the areas, and no media has been allowed in on the ground on the Bolivar Peninsula. Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas has clamped a lid on any city officials (other than her and the city manager) speaking to the press. There is even an unconfirmed report that FEMA has restricted all cell phone communications on Bolivar Peninsula.

There’s no indication as to why this media blackout is taking place – but it’s pretty clear – DHS, FEMA and the Bush administration are trying to manage the story. They don’t want another Katrina-style PR disaster on their hands, particularly in an election year. Take a look at this Coast Guard video, shot on 9/12 before Ike came ashore, and you might understand why.

It’s unclear how many people are still without power in southern Texas, but the number is in the millions, as of this evening. No lights, no air conditioning, no refrigeration for food. Gasoline (where available) is being restricted to 5 gallon purchases, at inflated prices. Businesses are closed. Schools might not reopen for weeks (or longer, in the most affected areas).

The finger pointing has already started. FEMA apparently belatedly showed up with manpower, but no relief supplies, and no distribution plan. They blamed the State of Texas. The State of Texas blamed local authorities. Sound familiar?

In the aftermath of Ike, federal and Texas officials blamed each other over delays in getting provisions, water and ice from staging areas in San Antonio and Fort Worth to relief workers and public distribution centers in the storm zone.

After taking criticism from U.S. Reps. John Culberson, R-Katy, and Nick Lampson, D-Stafford, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff claimed the state had failed to provide promised workers to run distribution centers. The supplies eventually arrived, and Houston Mayor Bill White downplayed the dispute as “a little drama.”

And according to today’s Houston Chronicle, FEMA is still “days away” from establishing a “mega relief center”.

It’s apparent that the only thing the Bush administration and DHS and FEMA have learned from the Katrina disaster of 2005 is message control. Maybe they asked for some pointers from the Myanmar junta that they so strongly criticized.

Update: Apocalypse Ike at Crystal Beach, Tx.:

Apocalypse Ike

(Found here in a huge gallery of Ike photos you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.)

Update, 9/17: New info – it’s only a matter of time before the pot starts boiling over in S. Texas:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff returned to Texas for a second time to check on recovery efforts amid growing criticism about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response.

In Houston, most people in the nation’s fourth-largest city remained without power for a fifth day, making it tough to track the latest information on where to pick up supplies. For most, the electricity wasn’t expected back on for at least another week…

Residents again waited in line for hours Wednesday at the nearly two dozen supply distribution centers set up in Houston to hand out food, water and ice. Mayor Bill White complained FEMA wasn’t bringing in the supplies fast enough, and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett had personally taken over coordination of efforts to hand out relief supplies.

FEMA officials in Houston said they were refining glitches in the relief effort and delivering millions of meals and water every 24 hours…

Heck of a job, Chertie.

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Where Were You on 8/29/2005?

On August 29, 2005, George Bush and John McCain were celebrating McCain’s birthday. Less than a day earlier, the National Weather Service had issued an ominous warning for the Gulf Coast. And while Bush and McCain were eating cake a day later, the U.S. Gulf Coast was drowning…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

The moment the weather bulletin below was issued, I was stunned. I’ve been a sky watcher for many years, because I find the intensity of Mother Nature fascinating. But never, in all my years of practicing amateur meteorology, have I ever seen a warning like this, issued by an agency of the U.S. government:

URGENT – WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005

…DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED…

.HURRICANE KATRINA…A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH…RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969.

MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS…PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL…LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.

THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE…INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.

HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY…A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT. AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD…AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS…PETS…AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.

POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS…AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS…

So, where were you on 8/29/05?

Where were you on 8-29-05?

We know where these guys were.

Image above shamelessly misappropriated from SailNet.

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

GOP to Delay Convention Because of Gustav?

Gustav is coming, and the Republicans are talking about postponing their convention and also getting Bush off the stage. The former is a stupid idea, as this convention is the life blood of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The latter, getting Bush off the stage to minimize memories of GOP incompetence in handling Katrina, is a good idea for them.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

That’s the report I’ve been hearing. The Republicans are thinking of delaying their convention because of the seriousness of the threat Hurricane Gustav poses as it barrels down on their convention city, Minneapolis. As we know, Minneapolis is particularly vulnerable to Hurricanes, as it sits right there on the Mississippi River. But wait, it is also well over a thousand miles from where meteorologists are predicting landfall. So, what’s the reason for this threatened postponement, anyway? Here’s how the Washington Post describes the issue as it stands, but of course they don’t get it right because they are too timid to call it like it is.

Republican officials said yesterday that they are considering delaying the start of the GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul because of Tropical Storm Gustav, which is on track to hit the Gulf Coast, and possibly New Orleans, as a full-force hurricane early next week.

The threat is serious enough that White House officials are also debating whether President Bush should cancel his scheduled convention appearance on Monday, the first day of the convention, according to administration officials and others familiar with the discussion.

For Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Gustav threatens to provide an untimely reminder of Hurricane Katrina. A new major storm along the Gulf Coast would renew memories of one of the low points of the Bush administration, while pulling public attention away from McCain’s formal coronation as the GOP presidential nominee.

Senior Republicans said images of political celebration in the Twin Cities while thousands of Americans flee a hurricane could be dubious.

Let’s leave aside the usage of the word “dubious” here by those members of the press at the Washington Post. Why would the Republicans consider postponing one of the largest conventions in America and putting out all the caterers, hotels, restaurants, all the economic impact to the city of Minneapolis? Why would the Republican Party stir up economic problems? Well, they say they are being sensitive, though surely they knew that this week Katrina would be memorialized by the survivors, and they arranged their convention for this week anyway. Besides, Republican comments back when Katrina happened were far from sensitive. I remember comments about lawlessness, lack of morals and the like. Those comments were absolutely racist, in no uncertain terms, and you still hear them on occasion from the Limbaughs and Glenn Becks of the world. Only now do we get an attempt at “sensitivity” on the part of the GOP. Surely the Republican Party is working from embarrassment, from the notion that they’ve got to keep their people from declaring Gustav a plague brought by God, as Pat Robertson so infamously did with Katrina, a deserved punishment for sinners, and the like. They’re simply afraid of bad public relations, not necessarily concerned with helping folks prepare for Gustav.

What are the Republicans going to do once they postpone the Convention? Are they all going to rush to New Orleans and load up the sandbags? I sincerely doubt it. Is John McCain going to act the hero and work to save the city, or succor the injured and homeless after the disaster? I’ll bet he tries, and I’ll bet Bush’s government gives him every photo-opportunity to accomplish such a goal. It will be a sham, of course. You see, Bobby Jindal and Mayor Nagin and Michael Chertoff seem to be prepared this time, and it’s a good thing they learned from the massive incompetencies that were the Bush response to Katrina. (Bush and McCain response?) And I’ve got faith in the American people that they will see through the sham.

Gustav poses severe problems for the Republicans. That doesn’t bother me a bit. What they should do, in all seriousness, assuming Gustav actually does some damage, is to mention it during their convention, but not excessively. They should talk about faith-based and other nonprofit disaster relief agencies and praise their role. They should note the ways John McCain helped during Katrina, too, and should confront head on the Marie Antoinette issue – the picture of McCain and Bush with the cake. What they will do? They’ll call for additional prayers in the Convention Hall, and they’ll mention Gustav in nearly every speech. A few delegates will go off the reservation and will talk of Katrina and the crime and the horrid images from when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and they will do so with their feet in their mouths. Too many people touching on that message and someone is going to screw up. It will happen, no doubt about it.

This is, truly, a no-win situation for the Republicans, but they should not postpone, and they should not pretend they are thinking of it. That would be fiscally irresponsible, and irresponsible to thousands of conventioneers who are ordinary Republicans who can’t easily disrupt their lives. Postponing would be showing a false type of concern, in my view. They should admit that the response to Katrina was piss poor, and then note how well the resonse to Gustav is going under the admirable leadership of Bobby Jindal. They should do so in the time slot reserved for Jindal’s speech, showing, then, Republicans responding to crisis instead of responding to politics. In short, they should try to change their image.

Here’s my prediction. Hurricane Gustav is going to go down in history as the first Hurricane anywhere ever to strike two cities one thousand miles apart in one day. The strike it makes against New Orleans will be lesser than the strike it makes against the GOP in Minneapolis, whether they are postponed or not. The GOP have a natural disaster on their hands, and they will make a mistake handling it, but the mistake will not likely harm their brand in one sense – they pretend to be the party of efficient government, you know. It will reinforce what has become the Republican brand, that they will do anything at all to win an election, even to the point of exploiting people being evacuated from a natural disaster. Someone call Brownie. He probably learned a lesson from Katrina. I’m pretty sure the Republicans have not as they focus on public relations over all other things.

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Busy News Day Roundup: Ney, McCain, Gustav

The news is coming hot and heavy today. Bob Ney claims he was a “political prisoner”, Gustav is poised to take no prisoners on the gulf coast on the 3 year anniversary of Katrina, and McCain is poised to announce his VP selection (who presumably isn’t in prison).

Commentary By: Richard Blair

It’s one of those days where there’s so much to keep up with – and damn the luck, I have a day job and just can’t do justice to all of the breaking news. Here’s a quick roundup:

Bob Ney: “BushCo Went After Me Because of Iran”

I’m not sure why this story never became a bigger deal than it was when it broke last year – basically, convicted Abramoff felon Bob Ney is saying that the BushCo DOJ went after him so hard because he forwarded “peace proposals” from Iran to the Whitehouse in 2003 (via the Swiss embassy). The existence of the proposal has been previously verified by several people close to the discussions, however, the Cheney / Rumsfeld cabal put the kibosh on engaging Tehran. More background here and here. It’s amazing that the legacy media can go after a sex scandal so voraciously, but when it comes to a story like this, there’s no investigation and it falls down the memory hole.

Officials may evacuate New Orleans as Gustav nears

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Gustav’s arrival. The storm has already affected my own work life rather dramatically, since many of the customers I deal with are in the deep south and/or on the gulf coast. They’re in a panic mode. And it’s quite serendipitous that an evacuation order for New Orleans could come as soon as tomorrow, the anniversary of Katrina. As Steven noted earlier, should Gustav ramp up as predicted, he could overshadow the GOP convention early next week.

McCain selects his VP

Proving that there is indeed no honor among thieves, the GOP is doing everything possible to steal the thunder from the wrap-up of the Dem convention this evening. McCain will be making a live address / ad this evening, right in the middle of the Dem proceedings at Invesco Field in Denver.

I remember a time in the not too distant past when both political parties honored their opposition’s “day in the sun”, and that there were (for all intents and purposes) gentlemen’s agreements that there wouldn’t be any overt campaigning by the opposition during either party’s convention. The GOP already parachuted Rudy Gi911iani and Mitt Romney into Denver to grab some spotlight (Gi911iani was given a big segment on NPR’s Morning Edition today). And now the McCain camp is desperately trying, via their Drudgehorn, to get the chattering class chattering about his pick this evening, rather than the pinnacle of the Dem convention. And it’ll probably work.

One can only hope that the Dems have a similar plan for next week. I hate tit-for-tat politics as much as the next person, but what the GOP has been trying to pull all week (with some degree of success) isn’t sporting in the least. But then, in their recent Rovian history, that particular attribute hasn’t been much of a concern to the snipers in the Republican Party.

Thursday, August 28th, 2008 by Richard Blair |