Wednesday, November 30, 2005

No one seems to care about either of them

This morning, a Washington Post reporter was on CNN saying that in much of Iraq, there was still no power, people were homeless, and they had lost their jobs. If you substitute the word "New Orleans" for "Iraq," it rings just as true. The only difference is that at least the Bush administration didn't bomb New Orleans to smithereens before not rebuilding it.

It's a sad thing to lose your roof

It's a much sadder thing to lose your sense of humor.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Martina Hingis returns to the tour, so why don't I feel better?

For three years, I have waited for the great Martina Hingis to say "I'm back!" Now that she has said it, I feel some anxiety. Hingis has been off of the WTA tour since 2002, when foot injuries forced her to retire. Her detractors said the real reason for her retirement was that she was losing to power players and didn't want to be humiliated, but I never bought into that.

Martina Hingis is, simply put, a tennis genius. Nicknamed "Chucky" by sports commentator Mary Carillo because she would smile like the doll in Child's Play (or so Carillo thought) right before she destroyed an opponent, Hingis is considered by many to be the best point constructor of all time. Because she was so adept at strategy, however, she allowed her physicality to lapse. Admittedly lazy about training, she did not get her body in the shape it needed to be in for her to fulfill her potential. Hingis also had a serve that left something to be desired, and she will definitely need to improve it if she expects to get herself back to the top level of competition.

I let my enthusiasm for women's tennis lapse for a while several years ago, and it was the amazing Hingis who brought me back into the fold. I regret that I didn't keep up with her career from the very beginning, and feel that by not closely watching her evolution, I missed something really big. It is my biggest tennis fan regret.

It has been fun watching Hingis play in World Team Tennis matches, especially since she has teamed with her former doubles partner, Anna Kournikova. But returning to the WTA is a whole different matter. Hingis hasn't said how active she will be in 2006, so her thousands of fans must wait nervously to see what happens.

In the meantime, one of my other favorite players, Hingis's Swiss compatriot Patty Schnyder, has blossomed and achieved her highest ranking ever, so Switzerland should be a country to watch next year.

Landrieu considering blocking Senate holiday recess

Louisisana Senator Mary Landrieu said yesterday that she is giving some thought to blocking the U.S. Senate's holiday recess until the government has agreed to pay for flood protection improvements along Louisiana's coast. There has already been considerable talk of a Louisiana citizen march on Washington, which might get more attention if Landrieu prevents the Senate from going home for Christmas.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Talk about the good old days

Jack Valenti is on C-Span, talking about his inspiration for creating a film-rating system: the film version of Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? "They were saying things like 'hump the hostess,'" Valenti reminded the Congressional panel.

I had to laugh. There is no way any kid, other than a highly intellectual one with a knowledge of absurdist theatre, would sit through the first ten minutes of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, much less stick around for "hump the hostess" and "angel tits."

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, remarkably, was the first film the great Mike Nichols ever directed, and it is stunning. This is the film in which Elizabeth Taylor showed a sometimes-doubting world that she was an actor of the highest caliber. Though plays with limited sets are usually not chosen as film material, it is the very claustrophobia of the film that makes the dialogue so terrifying. In fact, the one scene that is set outside of the house is the weakest scene in the film.

Taylor's character, Martha, also utters one of my favorite lines in all of film: "I am the earth mother, and you are all flops."

Honey: Oh, I don't know, a little brandy maybe. "Never mix, never worry!"
George: Martha? Rubbing alcohol for you?
Martha: Sure! "Never mix, never worry!"

When all you need is a picture

From today's Times-Picayune, Senator Landrieu tours the 17th Street Canal levee area with the ambassador from the Netherlands.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Supreme Court rejects Edmonds appeal

Today was one of the blackest days in recent American history, for today, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected, without comment, Sibel Edmonds' appeal following the dismissal of her lawsuit against the FBI.

If you are devoted to the mainstream news media and have never read Edmonds' letter, here it is.

It's a good thing I don't have any rotten fruit

I'd be hurling it at my television. Barbara Walters was just on, explaining to us that George W. Bush didn't intend to mislead the American people about Iraq; it just sort of happened.

And that John McCain is much less conservative than his colleagues. Pehaps we should send her his voting record.

And of course, it wouldn't be Walters without a sexist comment. This one was directed at Condoleezza Rice, who Walters said has accomplished much "without being shrill about it."

Jane Austen not good enough for Margaret Cho

I am a huge fan of Margaret Cho's comedy and of her writing. It always puzzles me that she is so compassionate about everything else but continues to support the eating and wearing of animals, but that is the way she is, I suppose, and we must wait for her to become enlightened.

However, in her latest blog post, Cho infuriates me in a way I never dreamed she would--by dismissing Jane Austen. How dare she.

The everyday effects of Katrina

For thousands of homeless people in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and beyond, every moment of every day is a reminder of the force of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the obscenity of a government that did nothing while people and animals died, economies were wrecked, careers ended, and family members were separated.

For the rest of us in the hurricane zone, it isn't that bad, though thousands more of us are still waiting for insurance checks, waiting for the contractor, waiting for the stump grinder, waiting to find out what new damage has been discovered. Every time I look at the stack of logs in my driveway or see the pile of cable left next to our wrecked mailbox, I am reminded of Katrina. I see the big blank spaces in my back yard and I think of Katrina. I look at the plants that died, the crack in the brick wall, and hole in the fence, and Katrina is with me.

As relatively insignificant as these things are, there are many more things that have caused our lives to be changed--not in terrible ways, just in ways that make us realize the consequences of a natural disaster. For example, it took me weeks to get a plumber to come to our house and replace a toilet that was no longer functioning. The plumbers we used to use would not return our dozen or so calls. Almost all of the plumbers in the parish are working on new construction and can't be bothered to replace our toilet. The rest are patching the hundreds of leaks that occurred when people turned off their pumps, causing corroded pipes to get washed out to the point of total destruction.

It is hard to get to places because of the traffic. Though the re-opening of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway helped a lot, there are now so many people living here temporarily that our highways are jammed with vehicles.

We can no longer be certain about the closing times of restaurants and other facilities. They change from night to night, depending on how many employees can be located on a given day.

We cannot get the things we used to get easily. I took some posters to my frame shop to have them framed. For some, there was an option of using mats and putting them in standard size frames, only there were hardly any standard size frames available because the supply houses were flooded during Katrina. Same with custom work--not enough employees to do the jobs, and a lack of framing materials. Using other supply houses is not much of a solution because delivery services like UPS are still not delivering in a timely manner because of the backups. An employee told me that the usual reaction from customers was anger, as if it had not occurred to them that their holiday plans would be obstructed by a Category 5 storm.

Last week, I referred a client to a doctor, and then found out he had moved to Houston after Katrina. When I went to the suite of offices in which he used to work, I discovered that everyone there had moved away. I no longer know who is in my community, who has gone away, and who is making plans to leave. Just about all anyone talks about is fallen trees, insurance issues, and FEMA.

Things are going to be different for a long, long time.

U.S. farmers ignore international treaty on methyl bromide

Methyl bromide, a pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide used primarily in the growing of strawberries, tomatoes, and bell peppers, has been found to rapidly deplete the ozone layer, and is toxic to humans and animals. Because of the harm done by methyl bromide, the Montreal Protocol Treaty--signed by the United States--to phase out its use, except in the most extreme cases, by 2005. But here it is, almost 2006, and methyl bromide use in the United States is still going strong. In fact, the Bush administration plans to protect its use at least through 2008, and will not commit to a termination date.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

At my wit's end

Right here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sometimes you just can't wait until lunch

So it turns out that inspectors from the Orleans Levee Board, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development didn't just hurry through their inspections of the region's levees so they could get to lunch on time. On their last cursory inspection--the one before Katrina--they also took a mid-morning coffee break.

A spokesman for the Corps of Engineers calls what happened a "good 'lessons learned'." I call it a destruction of one of America's leading cities and the collapse of a state's economy.

New Mexico State football coach accused of religious discrimination

According to ACLU attorney George Bach, New Mexico State University football coach Hal Mumme had his players recite The Lord's Prayer after every practice and before every game. Three of the team members were Muslims. When Mumme saw them praying differently from the other players, he asked them what they were doing (apparently Mumme lives in a cave and has never been exposed to any information about the outside world). They explained to him that they prayed differently because they were Muslims.

According to the lawsuit filed by Muammar Ali, the team's star running back, things got bad after that incident. Muume called Ali in for a private meeting, and questioned him repeatedly about Islam and its ties to al-Qaeda. Following the meeting, Ali says his coach never spoke to him again. Ali's role on the team became smaller and smaller until he was cut completely. The other two Muslin team members were cut, also.

This is not the first time Mumme has been involved in an incident that smacks of wrongdoing. When he was the football coach at the University of Kentucky, the school was placed on probation for three years and had its football scholarships stripped because of three dozen recruiting violations. Mumme then resigned from the university.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

That terrible French government is at it again

France and Louisiana have a strong bond that goes all the way back to the Louisiana Purchase. Until lazy, racist, redneck governor Mike Foster came along and snubbed Chirac because of the Iraq invasion, things went quite well between us. Now, France is putting together an arts program to help Louisiana recover from Katrina and Rita.

Through this program, Louisiana musicians will be able to live in France for three months and perform, and their room and board will be paid for. The French government is also putting together packages to promote the Louisiana-France connection, and the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, and the contemporary art collection of Centre George Pompidou are providing the New Orleans Museum of Art with a major exhibition in 2007.
Thousands of people visit the Louvre, where the "Mona Lisa," among another 35,000 masterpieces, is shown

A Katrina story

It isn't important until men want it

Pinko Feminist Hellcat has a great post on a Fortune Magazine article about the plight of American men who are working 80 hours a week and have discovered that the quality of their lives is very poor. They are now complaining about what women have complained about for decades, but the difference is--someone is listening to them. PFH makes the point that a woman who appears to put her career over her family would be in for harsh criticism, and that a man who cannot seem to leave his office is never accused of "trying to have it all."

The killer sentence, as PFH points out, is: "It's hardly news that accomplished women are desperate for a new deal at work. But anyone who understands America knows that unless men want something, too, not much will change."

Aside from the obvious issue of sexism--women are both ignored and criticized for having ideas that are attended to and praised when men have them--the Fortune article brings to the surface a particular peeve of mine--the sickness of the American corporate workplace. Knowing that you have to put in 80 hours a week in order to "succeed" should be a gigantic clue to say "hell, no" and find another job or another career, But for many attorneys and corporate executives, alienation from family, extreme stress, physical deterioration, and the development of mental illness are the prices they are willing to pay to have a lot of money, and--perhaps more important--career status.

Poor Ugandan women raise money for Katrina victims

In the Kireka region of Kampala, Uganda, the women work hard, breaking large rocks into small rocks. For this labor, they are paid $1.20 a day. Most of them are HIV positive and have been driven from their homes by their country's civil war.

Two hundred of them somehow raised $900 for the victims of Katrina, an act of such generosity, it is diffifult to fathom.

"When I die," a Kampala woman with AIDS said, "my children will be left like those in America. Someone will have to care for them. I want to care for someone also."

When woodcocks fall from the sky

This morning, I was in my home office, checking my email, when I heard a big thud on the front porch. I looked out the window, thinking a squirrel had experienced a clumsy moment trying to attach itself to a bird feeder, but what I saw instead was the rarely observed American woodcock. Apparently, it had fallen from the roof. The bird didn't move, though when we went outside, it took a few steps. But then it kind of froze, allowing me to get very close. The next step, of course, was to take it to the bird rehab place, so we prepared a lined carrier for the trip. The woodcock then walked onto the grass, where I wanted to take another photo in order to get some contrast. But then there was a flapping of wings and a shrill goodbye, and off it flew. The fall stunned it, but it recovered nicely.

Several years ago, on Good Friday, I came home from a mesmerizing, multi-colored exhibit of Haitian art to find a painted bunting on our front porch. Unfortunately, it was dead; our best guess was that it had tried to fly through the glass window. I have never seen another one.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Michael Brown wasn't the only one who was worried about getting to the restaurant

The Orleans Levee Board, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development were supposed to inspect the levees, but they never got around to completing their inspections because they were in a hurry to get to lunch.

They are still maintaining that the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board never told them about the water in people's yards in Lakeview, and said that next time, the residents should call them directly. Sure.

Friday cat blogging bonus

By popular demand, here are Roxie and Velma sleeping in the bedroom. Roxie is in their kitten bed, where she still likes to hang out, and Velma has made a bed of some gym shorts and an athletic support.


Thanks to Shakespeare's Sister for leading me to Amanda's post at Pandagon (though I would have wound up there eventually, anyway).

With his resume, why shouldn't he do well?

Former FEMA director Michael Brown, whose callousness and cluelessness left hundreds of people and animals dead, thousands of people homeless, thousands of people without jobs, and which wrecked the economy and ecology of New Orleans, southwestern Louisiana, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, has set himself up as a disaster preparedness consultant.

Any why not? Brown says he can teach communities to avoid making the "mistakes" that cost him his job. "I'm doing a lot of good work with some great clients," Brown says. If that is the truth, we have to ask two questions: Who would be stupid enough to hire him? And who would be ammoral enough to hire him? This is America, so I have no doubt there are people to fill both categories. Still, it boggles the mind.

Something worth reading

A former New Orleans history teacher wrote this piece for the Times-Picayune, and it sums up quite well the reason people love the city. As a person who both loves and hates New Orleans, I found it good reading.

Friday cat blogging--the Paris series

Cats on Quai d'Orsay

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The danger of faith-based prisons

When I first saw the term "faith-based prison," I burst out laughing. What the hell, I wondered, is a faith-based prison? To get my question answered, I turned to Florida governor and Constitution-basher Jeb Bush, who has opened Wakulla Correctional Institution in Crawfordville (not making this up), Florida. Wakulla's 1,600 inmates are expected to have low recitivism rates because they have regular prayer sessions, religious studies, choir practice and life skills training.

Naturally, people who care about church/state separation are upset by the existence of Wakulla, which purports to serve inmates of any religion or no religion, but of course, it's all about Jesus all the time.

There is another danger to operating such a prison, however, and that danger has to do with addiction. An extremely high percentage of prison populations suffer from alcohol and drug addiction; indeed, many inmate are behind bars because of their drug habits. People who suffer from serious addictions often temporarily put aside the addiction that has gotten them into trouble and substitute it with another, "acceptable" addiction. One of the most popular of these is compulsive religiosity.

When I was in the alcohol and drug treatment profession, I saw a great number of people "cured" by "finding God," only they became very extreme and dysfunctional about their new-found religion, and it caused them to do many of the things they did when they were drinking or drugging. Their thinking was warped, they hurt those around them, and they neglected their social and psychological growth. And, as I have already mentioned, the "cure" was temporary.

Teaching life skills is a good idea, and of course, inmates should be permitted to visit with the clergypeople of their choice. But introducing a number of addicts in a closed setting to regular prayer meetings and Bible study is a sure-fire formula for creating an addiction to religion.

Who is thankful today? The people of Jackson, Mississippi

By the time Hurricane Katrina reached Jackson, Mississippi, its winds were only 47 mph, with occasional gusts of up to 74 mph. These gusts knocked down trees and power lines, and damaged some roofs. Only 50 or 60 houses in the Jackson area were declared uninhabitable. Right after Katrina hit, the Bush administration declared 15 Mississippi coastal counties disaster areas. By September 7, at the request of the state of Mississippi, this disaster zone was extended 220 miles inland, and later, it was extended to include 47 counties, some 200 miles further north than the northernmost disaster area in Louisiana.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Before the animals of Katrina and Rita are forgotten

Please sign the Best Friends petition.

Quote of the week

From a letter to the New Orleans Times-Picayune: "The motto of the Corps of Engineers should be, 'If you can't come to the lake, we will bring the lake to you.'"

My turkey's photo arrived today

In a nice frame, just in time for the big day. Her name is Pumpkin, and here she is.

Sexist quote of the week--probably of the month

Louisiana state representative Troy Hebert, in urging the House not to go along with a compromise version of a bill granting tax breaks on natural gas and electricity to some industries: "Just reach down in your Fruit of the Looms and find something."

Once again, courage has to be found in male genitalia because that's where it apparently resides.

Please email Representative Hebert at and express your displeasure. Especially if you are from Louisiana. Emails from men would be especially helpful, too.

Why do people always laugh when I say I boycott Wal-Mart?

It happened again this morning, as it has happened countless times--someone asked me if I had seen the lines at Wal-Mart, and I said no, I've boycotted Wal-Mart for many years, and someone standing nearby began laughing. As always, I asked "Why is that funny? They do terrible things to people." And as always, the laugher said "I know they do; I've read quite a lot about it."

So could someone please let me in on the joke?

My existential angst takes on a new twist

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Church of the Mouse and Disco Ball... Can they co-exist for the good of humanity? Will they bring about a new ecumenical movement? Will they ask me to adopt a starving child in Ethiopia or produce television shows so they can talk about their building funds? Is that old-time religion good enough for me?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Al-Jazeera memo leak heats up in U.K.

It is always dangerous to be a news reporter during a war, but it has been especially lethal during the Iraq war. Today, the British government confirmed what was rumor--that when George W. Bush met with Tony Blair in the spring of 2004, he talked about targeting the headquarters of Al-Jazeera. A source for The Daily Mirror insists that Bush was joking, while another source claims he was quite serious.

(Continue reading on MoJo Blog)

Mongolian women should talk to someone who gives a damn

Mongolia, a supposedly democratic nation (we know about those), is a place in which women say they do most of the work, but men make all of the decisions. Mongolian women are significantly under-represented in the political field (still familiar, isn't it?), and face serious issues of poverty and domestic violence (well, there you are).

Apparently, the women in Mongolia are not aware that American women face many of these same problems. At any rate, they wasted their collective breath yesterday when they appealed for help to...Laura Bush. Maybe they should have checked first with Afghan women or Iraqi women, or for the remaining non-brain-dead women in America.

If there are any Mongolian women reading this, take heed: Laura Bush is the number one supporter of the man whose policies opened the door for the deaths of thousands of African women and children, and for the poisoning of thousands of American children. This is the man whose mission is to make the rich richer, chip away steadily at women's rights, and kill and maim unknown numbers of Iraqi women and children.

Maybe you need to think this through.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Paulie, you're doing a heck of a job

The president of St. Bernard Parish called in to a radio show today with some interesting information. First, the number of houses found to be habitable in his parish: one. That's right. In a parish of 680 square miles with a former population of around 65,000, there is one house in which people could live.

The parish president said there was a large area that had to be cleared of damaged trailers before new ones could be brought in, but no one hired by FEMA ever showed up to do the job, as contracted on October 21. Now the lot is being cleared, anyway, and could hold about 800 trailers, but FEMA has not brought them in to St. Bernard. He knew of 3,000 trailers lined up and ready to go. He also said he had yet to lay eyes on Donald Powell, who is overseeing long-term hurricane recovery in the Gulf region.

Meanwhile, back in my parish, I went to the grocery store where I heard temporary Baton Rouge residents chatting about those, you know, St. Bernard people who were invading our parish. They spoke in whispers and laughed among themselves. Why they were putting on airs, I don't know, because their other topic of converation was how put out they were that the local Wal-Mart is currently open only 12 hours a day.

Poll shows people in Britain still believe rape victims "ask for it"

A poll commissioned by Amnesty International reveals that British attitudes toward women who are raped have not changed over several decades. One third of those responding to the poll believe that a woman is "partly or completely responsible" if she is raped after she has been flirtatious or if she is drunk. More than one quarter believe that she is partially responsible if she is wearing sexy or revealing clothing.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

"It seems like a lot of the chicks are covered"

Poor Scott Counts, a 45-year-old Florida roofer who has come to Gulfport do hurricane reconstruction work and has encountered a city newly filled with men like himself, who now greatly outnumber the women. "It seems like a lot of the chicks are covered. I'm not the kind of guy who will stand in line with ten other guys to talk to a woman," Counts said in an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"We may be devastated, but we're not desperate,"one of the local women told the newspaper. Another Gulfport woman said "All these guys are either married or they're lying."

Hooters is full all the time now, and bar fights, parking lot fights, DWI's and drug arrests have dramatically increased. It's just one big testosterone-filled, sex-crazed good time, but not for everyone.

Lapham does it again

In his December Harper's "Notebook," editor Lewis H. Lapham provides what is, for all practicial purposes, a sequel to his unforgettable November column. "The Simple Life" is a summary of federal corruption and cronyism in the Katrina/Rita recovery business.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Paris photos are online

You can see a few of our recent Paris photos here.

Hispanic post-Katrina workers said to be living in terrible conditions and cheated out of pay

Hispanic workers who went to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to do hurricane recovery work after Katrina report that their employers sometimes disappear without paying them, that they sometimes have to wait a long time for a complex web of contractors to pay them, that their paychecks are sometimes smaller than promised, or that those paychecks never arrive at all.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Misogynist quote of the week

In speaking of RSS supremo K S Sudarshan's suggestion that Hindus have at least three children to multiply the community population, VHP leader Acharya Dharmendra "when we cannot control the population of the minorities, to maintain the balance between the minority and the majority, Hindu women should be prepared for more labour pains."

Dharmendra's remarks came about while he was criticizing Indian tennis player Sania Mirza, who is now being accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Most sickening car sticker I've seen in a while

Today, I was behind an SUV that had a Christian fish sticker with a cross inside it; the whole thing was red, white, and blue with stars and stripes.

Friday cat blogging--disgusted sister edition

Problems with 17th Street Canal levee were reported a year ago

About a year ago, a woman who lives near the 17th Street Canal in New Orleans noticed there was water in her yard. Then more water. Soon, her neighbors noticed there was water in their yards, too. The woman called the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board, who came out, tore up the sidewalks and driveways, and corrected the problem--somewhat. The yard continued to be wet, only not as wet as before. The woman assumed, as would anyone, that the Sewerage & Water Board had contacted the Army Corps of Engineers about the issue, after confirming that the water was coming from the canal.

The Corps, however, says it was never contacted. Considering the monumental inefficiency of the Sewerage & Water Board, this is very likely the truth. On the other hand, considering the monumental inefficiency of the Army Corps of Engineers, it is entirely possible its office was indeed told about the problem.

A man in the same neighborhood noticed his townhouse was shaking as a construction crew next door drove piles for a new project. The crew had demolished two houses and uprooted two giant oaks at the site, which--just weeks later, would prove to be the center of the levee breech.

We have already learned that the levee was poorly constructed and should never have been approved. And now we know that pre-Katrina warning signs were ignored. Because of inefficiency, unprofessionalism, bureaucracy, amorality, and probable corruption of those in charge--and the inefficiency and callousness of those charged with disaster management-- hundreds of people and animals are dead, and thousands are homeless and jobless.

Sania Mirza condemned for promoting safe sex

Once again, rising Indian tennis star Sania Mirza is in trouble in her home country. Already having had a fatwa issued against her because she wears regulation tennis clothing and western-style sportswear, now Mirza has dared to promote safe sex in India. She told the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit: "So there are two issues here, safe sex and sex before marriage. You don't want me to tell you that you have to have safe sex, whether it is before or after marriage. Everyone must know what he or she is doing."

Mirza's remarks have now somehow been morphed into a promotion of sex before marriage, and protesters have burned her posters on the streets. Some have demanded an apology from her, and others have called her "un-Islamic." Mirza made her comment about safe sex only a day after she publicly supported Tamil film star Khushboo, who was taken to court for talking about pre-marital sex.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Remember Afghanistan?

Via Patriot Daily, a report from USA Today reveals that U.S. Special Forces soldiers say that a more organized enemy than they faced last year. The report of the 1st Batallion, 3rd Special Forces Group, is that includes the fact that this year in Afghanistan has been the bloodiest since 2001. 87 troops have died, and the insurgency is not about to collapse, as predicted by Army Lt. Gen. David Barno.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Holla Back!

Thanks to Pandagon, I visited Holla Back, a blog in which women of New York City photograph men who harrass them. It is totally pathetic that in 21st Century America, there is a need for women to holla back, but--as we all know--that is reality. So a shout-out to Holla Back, and a plea for feminist men to help us put an end to the constant harrassment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

NPR produces a riveting piece

I was fortunate enough to be in my car with NPR on when "My Lobotomy" was aired. The "All Things Considered" feature tells the story of 56-year-old Howard Dully, who received a transorbital lobotomy from Dr. Howard Freeman when he was 12 years old. Dully was not mentally ill; rather, he was considered a nuisance by his stepmother, who arranged the surgery.

"My Lobotomy" covers Dully's two-year search for information about what was done to him, and ends with his finally talking to his father, whose denial is bone-chilling.

You can download the feature and see and hear a lot of Web-only features here.

On doing things in a timely fashion

In the next week or so, Louisiana will receive bills from FEMA for its share of post-Katrina/Rita recovery. The total of all the bills is expected to be $3.7 billion. The federal agency has made it clear to state officials that there will be interest, penalties, and possible ineligibility for other federal funds if the state does not pay the bills in a "timely fashion."

Sure. Like FEMA responded to the hurricanes in a "timely fashion." Will Louisiana be billed for the rows of buses ordered by Governor Blanco but not allowed to enter the state until days after the storm hit, and which then entered from the Arkansas end of Louisiana? Will the state be billed for the multiple trucks of ice that were sent to Maine and South Carolina, where they are probably still sitting? How about the telecommunications equipment ordered by the governor that was never received at all? Or the truckloads of food that had be parked on the side of the road until George W. Bush could make his round of "I knew a storm was comin'" speeches and advise evacuees to go to Goodwill centers that had been blown to oblivion by Katrina?

What about the share of Michael Chertoff's and Michael Brown's hefty salaries and consulting fees that Louisiana's citizens helped pay for? Can that be deducted?

People died in the Superdome and the Convention Center. They died on the street. They died after they finally reached Houston. Their pets were tossed into the street like garbage by "rescuers." Because everything was done in such a "timely fashion."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Congress takes back September 11 aid money

For some time now, New York officials have done their best to hold on to $125 million in aid that was originally intended to help cover increased worker compensation costs originating from the September 11 attacks. The city was saving the money to use for the first responders who are likely to develop long-term lung problems from working around the debris, as well as mental health problems from working at the disaster site.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

The best place to get a Thanksgiving turkey

I took Kathy's lead and adopted a turkey for Thanksgiving. You can adopt one, too, which is a lot nicer than eating one.

Happy Birthday, Harriet!

I hope you enjoyed your party.

Time Magazine slaps Blanco 3 times--once would have been enough

Time Magazine has just named Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco one of the five worst governors in the United States, based on her post-hurricane reponse. The writers went out of the way to say they found Blanco blameless in every aspect of hurricane preparation and government performance. The low rating was because she failed to appear "decisive, steadfast, and capable" during the days after Katrina and Rita hit Louisiana, and because it took her seven weeks to establish her Louisiana Recovery Authority.

The governor's failure to establish the LRA in a timely fashion deserves a big media slap, in my opinion. But her failure to have a bullhorn moment shouldn't come as a surpise to anyone who has followed her career. She is the most low-key politician imaginable. And besides, we know what can happen when people are sucked in by the ersatz leader appearing "decisive, steadfast, and capable," so perhaps that routine is a tad over-rated.

The third slap? Time didn't take into account any other part of Blanco's governorship. I am no fan of Blanco, but she was certainly the better of the two choices we had, and she is certainly better than the last governor we had. Since she took office not that long ago, she has done some good things and she has done some stupid things. If I were giving grades, I'd probably give her a C+, though it may be too early to be handing out grades. She is a tireless worker, she understands what the state has to do to attract business, and it appears she is a bit of a closet civil libertarian. On the down side, she has established strong alliances with the wink-nudge legislative crowd of old, she has hardly mentioned the state's massive environmental problems, and she is going to task-force us all to the edge of reason.

She has also been the chief scapegoat for the Bush administration in its desperation to appear competent in the aftermath of the hurricanes. The White House mud machine worked overtime to spread huge lies about her, and much of the mud stuck in a state where people were angry and in total denial that the "man of God" could possibly have done these terrible things to them.

Lapham calls out Bush administration for post-Katrina crimes

In his monthly "Notebook" column, Harper's editor Lewis H. Lapham bestows the magazine's November issue with a critique of the Bush administration's response to Katrina that all but brought me to tears. "Slum Clearance" is a scathing, no-holds-barred description of what the Republican Party's real mission is all about: doing whatever it takes to increase the wealth of the rich, and whatever is necessary to bring about the demise of the poor.

Lapham calls the scale of the laissez-faire response of the federal government even greater than the scale of the disaster itself.

The residents of New Orleans had been told to evacuate the city before the hurricane came ashore, and if they didn't do so, well, whose fault was that? Government cannot be held responsible for the behavior of people who don't follow instructions, aren't mature enough to carry an American Express card or drive an SUV.

Lapham wonders, as we all do, how millions of people around the world could have seen the reports of people dying in the Superdome, but Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said he knew nothing about them. He reviews the chillingly callous statements made by Barbara Bush, Jack Burkman, Laura Bush, and Tom DeLay right after the disaster occurred. And he points out the irritation Bush felt when people complained about both him and FEMA Director Michael Brown:

What was everybody complaining about, for God's sake? Who didn't know that America was divided into a nation of the rich and a nation of the poor? What else had every self-respecting Republican politician been doing for the last thirty years if not bending his or her best efforts to achieve that very purpose?

He reminds us that the majority of the legislation passed by Congress in the last five years--the transportation bill, the Medicare bill, tax bills, the bankruptcy bill--"strengthens the power of money to limit and control the freedom of individuals."

Lapham, by the way, announced Monday that he is retiring as the editor of Harper's some time next spring. Fortunately, he will continue to write for the magazine.

Monday, November 14, 2005

O'Reilly calls non-Judeo-Christians "crazy" for seeking recognition of their religious holidays

The recent controversy in Tampa over religious school holidays started when the Hillsborough County School Board voted, after much debate, to do away with school religious holidays. The board voted 6 to 1 to give Hilsborough County students three secular days off instead. A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations described the move as "Just an excuse to hide bias against the Muslims," and the president of the Florida Council of Churches called the action "petty."

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Justice Department may sue to protect white males

Because they are ever vigilant about discrimination.

Bush voters deserve what they got, but the rest of us don't

This afternoon I was in a little cafe, and there was an elderly man in a motorized wheelchair in there. He had a very large American flag on a pole attached the back of his chair, and in front of his basket was a Bush/Cheney '04 sign.

I felt bad that he was in a wheelchair, but all I could think of was his mental disability. One of the first things Bush did when he entered the White House was to issue an executive order that, for all practical purposes, abolished federal standards for just about anything you could name, putting things back the way they were during the repulsive Reagan era. The New Freedom Initiative has never been taken seriously, and the ADA is still not enforced. Bush's Social Security disability cuts and his preference for judges who are hostile to the ADA says it all.

My guess is that the man in the cafe was also a veteran, which would make him doubly dimwitted. The Bush administration's cutting of veterans' benefits has been one of the main outrages of the invasion of Iraq. When the American Legion attacks the right wing, you know they have gone too far.

One man I know for sure is a veteran is a 63-year-old man who called in to a radio show today to say that he was a member of armed forces for 31 years, he had a weak heart, two stints, a bad back, and a busted leg. He lost his home when Katrina hit, and he waited six weeks to get a trailer. When FEMA called him to meet them so they could set the trailer up, he couldn't get through the checkpoints, so they left. They called him again--same thing. They called him a third time--again, they left. Finally, on the fourth try, FEMA left the trailer without trying to contact the man.

The trailer came furnished with nothing. Not a chair. Not a table. It is 17 feet long. The man's feet hang off the end of the bed, he has 22 square feet to move around in, and he has to keep his coffeepot on the floor.

Those Louisiana people. They just can't stop whining, can they?

The dreaded "w" word

I just heard a radio interivew with a woman who heads a commission that will help determine how New Orleans is rebuilt. The host introduced her as the "chairman" of the commission, and when she came on the air, in an attempt to "do right," he asked her, "What do we call you, 'chairman' or 'chairperson'?"

Oh what lengths we will go to to avoid saying the word "woman," especially if it is part of a phrase having to do with authority. When radio and television hosts said stupid things like that in the 70's, it was bad enough. To do so now tells me all I need to know about how women have allowed our language--the most powerful cultural tool we have--to shut them out.

The guest was even worse. She said, "I get called different things. "Chairman" is like "humankind," so you can call me that.

No, it isn't. "Chairman" means that even if you are not a man, you must be referred to one if you happen to take on the "masculine" role of authority.

I want all male chairs to be called "chairwomen' and then I want to see how long it takes before they protest.

I take my second post-Katrina trip to New Orleans

I had to go to uptown New Orleans again yesterday, and I found the streets cleaned up a bit more than the last time I went. When I was through with my appointment, I drove to City Park, and despite the recent clean-up--or maybe because of it (the view was clear)--the sight was shocking. Where there used to be gorgeous giant oak trees, there were just blank spaces made worse by brown patches of grass and still-standing broken trees. I drove all around the outer edges of the park, then into Lakeview.

I cannot imagine what Lakeview looked like before the clean-up began--probably like a war had just taken place. I drove up and down the main highways, then through the side streets, and had to concentrate to keep my mouth closed--it just kept popping open as I drove by piles of debris, dead trees, abandoned cars, and shells that used to be houses. There was very little traffic, and I saw few people. A man was at work with his chainsaw. A couple, donned in face masks, drove up to a house, presumably theirs, to take a look. The stores, banks, and restaurants were all boarded up. I could hardly believe what I saw.

On my way out, I drove up the hill to see what had become of the coffee shop where many Lakeview residents used to meet. Outside was a row of cars, their paint destroyed by the elements. Though they had once been parked in correctly angled positions within the lines, Katrina had moved them around so that they were all jammed into each other like forgotten pieces on a big game board.
A pile of debris in front of an abandoned building in the Lakeview section of New Orleans. Many of the buildings left standing look like this.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Amelie Mauresmo wins the WTA Tour Championships!

Every generation has a tennis player of such grace, it is a joy to watch her move on the court. In the 1950's, Maria Bueno had such a reputation. Later, it was Evonne Goolagong, perhaps the most graceful court mover of all time. She was followed by Hana Mandlikova, then Gabriela Sabatini. Now it is Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo, the all-court player whose variety of shots and ability to move deftly around the court earned her the U.S. Open nickname, "The Artiste."

Unfortunately, that is not Mauresmo's only nickname. "Headcase" is the one we usually hear, along with "choker." As a die-hard Mauresmo fan, I have never given up on her, though I cringe every time she goes through another Grand Slam without winning. Tonight the tables turned. Though not a Grand Slam, the WTA Tour Championships are a very big deal, and Mauresmo won them by defeating Mary Pierce 5-7, 7-6, 6-4.

Oddly enough--considering her reputation--Mauresmo has an outstanding tiebreak record, and I wasn't too worried when the second set reached 6-all. In the third set, when Pierce was serving at 4-all, Mauresmo broke her to serve for the match. She immediately went to 0-40, hardly a formula for getting to match point, but she won five points in a row, winning the championship on her first ad point.

Big WTA finals are usually not very good; the quality action seems to take place in the semifinals, followed by a letdown. This year's Wimbledon was an exception, with Lindsay Davenport losing to Venus Williams in one of the big heart-breakers (for Davenport fans) of all time. Last night, Daveport's semifinal match with Pierce was also one of extremely high quality, with Davenport losing by a hair, 7-6, 7-6. Mauresmo beat defending champion Maria Sharapova in the other semifinal, setting up an all-French final. Pierce had already given Mauresmo her only tournament loss in the round robin; Mauresmo had beaten U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters and Russia's Elena Dementieva.

Just recently, Mauresmo was knocked out of two tournaments in the first round, and she told reporters she was so burned out, she didn't know if she could go on. There were rumors that she was withdrawing from the WTA Tour Championships. Instead, she entered the Advanta Championships in Philadelphia, and won the tournament for the third year straight. She arrived at the WTA Tour Championships with an aggression that her game has lacked, and with a clear head.

Mary Pierce, holder of two Grand Slam titles, has played amazing tennis this year, and was a finalist in two Grand Slams. Her service game is one of the best on the tour, she is a quick thinker, and she has great hands. The contest between the two Frenchwomen (who are close friends) was epic in nature--one for the books. Despite incredible play from Pierce, Mauresmo's heavy topspin, superb backhand, finely honed net skills, and tireless athleticism took her all the way. In the end, she overcame Pierce by going after everything thrown at her, and by turning many defensive plays into winners.

I hope this breakthrough frees Mauresmo to win a Grand Slam in 2006.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Memo to Fernandez and Drysdale: Nadia Petrova won the match

Last night, in her last round-robin match of the 2005 WTA Tours Championships, Nadia Petrova defeated defending champion Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2. This is generally what is known as getting your ass kicked, but if I'd had audio only, I wouldn't have known that Petrova was even on the court, much less winning easily. Commentators Mary Joe Fernandez and Cliff Drysdale hardly acknowledged that she was present.

Maria is the defending champion. Maria never gives up. Maria always has something else in mind. Maria came from love-4 to win last year's championship (actually, her opponent was injured at the time). Maria won Wimbledon last year. Maria's face is the most famous face in women's sports.

On and on went this litany from Fernandez, with Drydale either agreeing or adding more Mariaisms to the commentary. Meanwhile, Sharapova was committing unforced errors up the wazoo, and Petrova was putting on a serving clinic. The night before, Sharapova had barely escaped with a 3-set win over Lindsay Davenport, who seemed to be asleep until Sharapova served for the match at the end of the second set. Davenport then broke her twice, and looked as though she might take the third set, too. I thought Sharapova's game looked vulnerable and said so. Imagine my surprise when--during the Petrova match--Fernandez kept repeating that Maria had "played superbly" against Davenport.

When Petrova won the first set, 6-1, the commentators mentioned it casually, as they might mention going to a commercial break. When she won the match, it was all they could do to perfunctorily announce it. Their ignoring of Petrova's superb play--despite Sharapova's weak play--was shocking.

Maria Sharapova is an extremely gifted tennis player, but she is no Chris Evert or Steffi Graf. She has vulnerabilities that can be exploited, and good players know how to exploit them. Petrova is also a very gifted player who we all thought would be further along by now (Fernandez did allow that a few years ago, we thought it would be Petrova who would be the Russian who broke through), but who is coming into her own. Fernandez and Drysdale insulted her last night during one of her best wins.

If there's a de-programmer in the house, she should get to Fernandez as soon as possible, for she is deep into the Cult of Sharapova.

Friday, November 11, 2005

WTA Tour Championships--the short version

Clijsters shows up in name only; Davenport brings it on, but a little late with regard to Sharapova; Schnyder chokes; Pierce kicks ass; Petrova lags behind; Sharapova hits hard but screams less; Dementieva tanks; and Mauresmo finds Andy's mojo and tries it on for size.

As of this writing, Davenport, Sharapova, Mauresmo, and Pierce go into tomorrow's semifinals, though the rankings aren't in until Mauresmo plays Pierce tonight. Kim Clijsters has complained of jet lag since she arrived, but maybe this has something to do with the fact that she arrived at the last minute and gave herself no time to adjust. Both Mary Pierce and Amelie Mauresmo, who usually have a hard time beating Clijsters, defeated her in the round-robin. Sometimes Clijsters goes on an unforced error spree, and this has been one of those times.

Patty Schnyder
forced Sharapova into three sets. Schnyder should have taken her second set against Davenport at 6-2, but lost it instead when she let one 40-love lead slip, and another 40-15 lead slip. Davenport then went on a double-fault spree against Sharapova, and was virtually out of the contest until Sharapova was serving for the match at the end of the second set. Davenport broke her twice, won the set, and came painfully close to taking the match.

Assuming that Sharapova will beat Petrova later tonight, Petrova will exit the championships with an 0-3 record. Ouch. And if Clijsters wakes up and beats Dementieva, likewise (or vice versa).

And assuming that Sharapova will emerge as number 1 in her group, she will face whoever loses the Pierce/Mauresmo match. The winner will face Davenport. Any of those combinations should guarantee good tennis, and semifinal matches are traditionally the best of any tournament.

Sharapova is the defending champion and will fight hard. Despite winning, she looked vulnerable against Davenport last night, and could be taken out by either Frenchwoman, assuming Mauresmo keeps up the aggression.

One thing has already been established: Lindsay Davenport will end the year as the number one player in the world.

Stop the presses--F.D.A. declares condoms prevent pregnancy

The Food and Drug Administration has released a 63-page report that declares, among other things, that latex condoms are effective in preventing pregnancy and in reducing the risk of infection from sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS. The report will form the basis on new condom packaging in the United States.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Friday cat blogging--the Paris series

Cats guard the Louvre

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Next time you're defrauded out of your retirement funds, blame Babs

And next time a corporation manipulates you into paying $500 for your monthly utilities, blame Jane.

When I was in the Biloxi/Gulfport airport, preparing to fly to Atlanta, the woman who manages the gift shop decided to tell anyone who wanted to hear--and it was hard not to--that she hasn't attended a film in years and doesn't intend to see one because "they are all immoral."

"It's because of California! The country is immoral now because of California!"

"I hate Barbra Streisand!"

"And I hate Jane Fonda!"

I happened to be holding Fonda's memoirs in my hand, and I toyed with the idea of walking in there and holding it up so that she could see it, but it didn't seem sporting.

Louisiana's post-hurricane disaster: Part 2, the federal government

By now, most people have seen enough evidence to realize that FEMA's so-called response to Hurricane katrina was criminally incompetent. What they do not realize, though, is that the federal government's response continues to be inadequate.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Black Caucus sues Blanco

After Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco cut millions of dollars from the state's budget, she received a memo from state attorney general Charles Foti, telling her she was allowed to cut up to 10% of the budget without legislative approval, so she used an executive order to make additional cuts. Foti based his decision on wording in the 2005 budget bill. However, the Louisiana constitution does not permit a governor to cut more than 5% of the budget without approval of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget.

According to the Legislative Black Caucus, the governor was out of line in doing what she did, and the caucus has filed suit against her, saying that the state constitution always trumps other rules set forth in bills.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bob Herbert forgets most of the Iraq War dead

In his November 7 column, "And the War Goes On," Bob Herbert takes the White House to task for diverting the media's and the nation's attention while hundreds of American soldiers die in Iraq and hundreds more are wounded are ill. He makes it clear that those in power had no idea what they were doing when they began the war, and that they have no clue how to end it. The column is a scathing attack on the Bush administration, as far as it goes, but nowhere does Herbert mention the thousands of Iraqui citizens who have been killed, injured, and left homeless in the war. It is as though they never existed at all.

David Brooks manufactures a way to kick Joan Didion

I haven't read either book, but it seems pretty clear that David Brooks goes out of his way here to trash Joan Didion in the most tasteless way imaginable.

If you don't pay the Times for the privilege of reading Brooks' drek (I certainly don't--it was printed in my local newspaper), this is what I am upset about: Near the end of a tribute to author Marjorie Williams writings about the cancer that ended her life, Brooks finds a way to contrast her with Joan Didion, though there is no reason whatsoever for the two women to be compared or contrasted. Brooks makes the point that Williams wrote matter-of-factly about her grief and Didion wrote emotionally about hers, and that he, of course, appreciates Williams' approach.

Mohammad Ali, Aretha Franklin, and Paul Rusesabagina all to accept award from the scum of the earth

These three, among others, are shaking the resident's clammy hand and thanking him for the Medal of Freedom award today. Irony dead? No way. Courage of conviction dead? Probably.

Louisiana's post-hurricane disaster: Part 1, the state

Much of the debris left behind in Louisiana by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is familiar to Louisiana citizens, for it is the detritus of a system that relies on pork, patronage, and power plays. When the Louisiana Bond Commission met several weeks ago, it performed the shocking act of doing nothing to change its pre-Katrina plans. Every item that had been earmarked before August 29, including $4 million for the Morehouse Parish Equine Center, the proposal that drew the most negative response from both the local and national press. State Treasurer John Kennedy requested line-item approval of the Bond Commission's work, but when the commission met a second time, its members voted to make no changes.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fox News vice president charged with sexual harrassment

Joe Chillemi, a Fox News Network vice president, has been charged with the sexual harrassment of a number of women in the Fox workplace. Using obscenities and vulgarities to refer to women and their body parts, complaining about pregnant employees, and referring to the women in the promotions department as his "promo girls," Chillemi is said to have created a hostile work environment. The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Kim Weiler, says that when she complained about gender discrimination, she and other women were constructively discharged.

The so-called American "awakening" to the problem of sexual harrassment in the workplace that was brought about by the testimony of Professor Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings wasn't much of an awakening. Both harrassment and assault routinely take place, and even if you are a multiple perpetrator, you can still be elected governor of California, which goes to show you how little Americans care about the issue.

Protesters cross the Mississippi River

Depending on the source, there were "a couple of dozen" (New Orleans United Radio Broadcasters) or eighty (New Orleans Times-Picayune) protesters marching across the Crescent City Connection yesterday to protest the turning back of evacuees from Gretna during Hurricane Katrina. The evacuees had been told by New Orleans maor Ray Nagin that there were buses on the other side of the river that would take them to safety.

Joined by Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and representatives of national organizations, the marchers were originally told by NOPD members that they would be peaceably arrested for civil disobedience, but later, the police changed their minds and told the protesters to just go ahead and march.

Gretna officials maintain that they could not let the evacuees cross over into Jefferson Parish because there was nowhere for them to go, and no food and water to give them. There were also safety concerns--a police officer had been shot, and looters had already crossed over and set fire to the West Bank's Oakwood Mall. The protesters point out that the evacuees were African American, and that forcing them back to the east side of the river was blatantly racist.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Post-Katrina update

We came home from our two-week trip to discover that no debris had been cleared during our absence. Now, suddenly, I cannot get out of my neighborhood again because of the trucks, forklifts, and cherry-pickers that are everywhere.

FEMA told the city of Slidell to remove the temporary showers from a harbor facility because evacuees were no longer living there. The next morning, seventy-four evacuees were unable to take showers.

FEMA has sent a bill to the state of Louisiana for $3.7 billion worth of post-hurricane services, 9% of the projected costs of Katrina/Rita relief. No one has any idea how it can be paid. Governor Blanco is urging huge cuts in many state programs, and is expecting strong opposition from legislators. She has asked that all elected officials disclose any earnings they make from hurricane relief efforts. You may be wondering how they can be allowed to earn any money from relief efforts, and your question would be legitimate. However, it is going to be problematic enough to get them to disclose what they do make. Asking them to refrain from earning the income would probably get you, me, or Blanco laughed out of the room. All the same, I wish she would put her foot down on this issue.

For the most part, the governor has Republican support for her plan to cut the budget, but not a lot of Democratic support. The other parts of the plan include providing additional business tax incentives and borrowing some money.

While I was waiting at the Gulfport/Biloxi airport on Saturday, I met a man who is a pastor on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He said his church provides aid to people have received absolutely nothing from the federal government. Their slogan is "Shop 'til you drop," and they specialize in providing shoes to evacuees. A few of us were gathered around him, talking about the aftermath of the hurricane, and we all agreed that when the news media went home, suddenly there was "no more money."

The IRS finally looks at church/state separation

After Justice Sunday passed this year, some of us were wondering whether the Internal Revenue Service would ever investigate blatantly political churches like Two Rivers Baptist in Nashville.

Now, we learn that the IRS is indeed going after a church for political involvement: All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena may lose its tax-exempt status because its rector, J. Edwin Bacon, preached an anti-war sermon two days before the 2004 election.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Welcome back to Amurica

On the final leg of our flight back, we had to give up our reserved seats because of our late arrival. Thanks to the nonsense over unloading and re-loading our baggage at the Atlanta airport, we made our flight only because we received permission of the pilot to board at the last moment. I was very, very tired from both the trip itself, and from jet lag. That was bad enough, but then I hit the jackpot with seatmate selection: I got a France-hating, New Orleans-hating Republican member of the armed forces. He was also a golfer, but I did my best not to hold that against him.

At least he was polite. I changed the subject whenever I could, but I had to hear about how no one should feel sorry for the people in New Orleans, and that the French people may have some good traits, but, you know...they betrayed us and are of no use to us. He went on and on, and I was grateful that the flight was only an hour in length. My patience was wearing thin.

What a rude shock, after spending two weeks listening to French and British people discuss how completely puzzling it is that George W. Bush is supposedly the president of the United States, and how alarmed they are at what is going on. I needed a little time to adjust, but the Cult of Bush assaulted me as soon as I hit land. Coming home to the unseasonably warm weather would have been bad enough.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Some final thoughts on Paris

Without a doubt, this was the best vacation I ever had. It was my first trip to Paris, and no amount of reading or looking at films and photographs could have prepared me for what I saw. There is simply no adequate way to describe this most beautiful of places, where both the grand vistas and the tiny details are equally stunning.

We did a lot, walked a lot, saw a lot, heard and tasted a lot. We wanted to go to Giverny, but waited too late; it was closed for the season. We never made it to Centre George Pompidou to see the contemporary art collection, but we did visit the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, the Musee Rodin (and sculpture garden), and the exhibition at the Grand Palais Galleries. We strolled through the Tuileries by day and night, and enjoyed both the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Jardin des Plantes. We spent two days at Montmartre, took in part of the Parabis Masters tennis tournament, enjoyed the company of our friend from Geneva and her Paris friends, and visited a number of churches, including Cathedrale Notre Dame, Sainte Chappelle, and the Basilica Sacre Coeur.

We shopped, took hundreds of photographs, and enjoyed several cafes, a few of which were as memorable for their ambience as for their cuisine. We were fortunate to stay in a lovely, conveniently located, very guest-friendly hotel, Hotel Britannique, near the Place du Chatelet. It is excellent in every respect, but is worth the price of admission for its gorgeous, exquisitely comfortable red English lounge.

Once I get organized and caught up, I will post an online album of selected photographs.

In the meantime, I am sorting through my luggage, which didn't arrive until this afternoon, thanks to the ever-efficient machinations of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

On our last day in Paris, I get to see Andy Roddick play!

Our last day in Paris, Friday, we went to the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Masters and saw, among other matches, the thriller between Roddick and Spain's David Ferrer. Rodick had a back injury, and I thought he might have to retire, but he pulled out a victory in a 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8) match. Unfortunately, the next day, his back continued to give him problems, and he lost his semifinal match to Ivan Ljubicic.

The BNP Paribas Masters, the last ATP tour match of the season, is played at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, an attractive indoor arena. The surface is taraflex, the same surface that is used in the Olympic games.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday cat blogging--homeward bound edition

We leave Paris for home tomorrow morning, and on Sunday morning, we pick up Roxie and Velma from their boarding facility. Or so they wish us to believe. We are convinced, however, that they followed us to Paris and are sitting in cafes, wearing flashy scarves and smoking nip cigarettes, always a few steps ahead of us. We think this might be why we hear police sirens all night long, too.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Alito's failure to recuse himself looked at as possible conflict of interest

In 2002, Judge Samuel L. Alito Jr., who owned $390,000 in Vanguard mutual funds, ruled in favor of Vanguard in a case involving a Massachusetts woman who was trying to regain the assets of her late husband's IRA's. The funds were frozen by Vanguard following a court ruling in favor of the husband's business partner.

(Continue reading at MoJo Blog)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Paris--day 11

A day in Montmartre! It was cold and rainy, which was fine with us. Almost every little street provided a nice view, and though the view from the top of the butte was hazy, it was still lovely. Ivy-covered walls and narrow cobblestone streets diverge from the main boulevards, which are themselves colorful and filled with greenery. A fruit and vegetable stand pays photographic homage to French film star Audrey Tautou, dimly lit cafes display smart armchairs and colorful lamps, and I buy some tiny music boxes that play Edith Piaf songs.

We visited the Basilica Sacre-Coeur, a splendor of mosaics and stained glass, some of it contemporary. We also visited a few other beautiful old churches, as well as the Moulin de la Galette and the cemeteries, where Degas, Trouffaut, and Offenbach are entombed. The rainy Place du Tertre was filled not only with artists painting scenes and portraits, but also with visitors with brightly colored umbrellas.

Walking south from Montmartre, I finally saw the Moulin Rouge, which I have romanticized since I was a child and the theme from the second Moulin Rouge film was a popular song.

We enjoyed Montmartre so much, we are going back tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Paris--day 10: Stuck in the Metro with you

When France underwent the Daylight Savings Time change on Sunday, someone forgot to tell the Metro ticket people. Because the time stamps on the tickets are an hour off, if you are in a Metro station with no independent exit door, you cannot get out because the ticket will not let you through the turnstile. Crawling under it works fine, however.

For the last few days, there have been riots in a suburb in Paris, ever since two teenage boys were electrocuted when they climbed into an electrical station, presumably to escape the police. Clichy-sous-Bois district has seen petrol bombs hurled and cars set on fire since Thursday, and there have been several arrests. According to French officials, the police were investigating a robbery when the boys ran to the electrical station, but they were not specifically chasing the victims.

The weather in Paris is once again beautifully chilly and windy, and we spent most of today at the Musee d'Orsay, where we saw the Pre-Impressionists, the Impressionists, the Post-Impressionists, and a special exhibit of Russian painting, graphics, photography, and objets d'art.

Racism in America

Margaret Cho can tell you all about it.