Friday, September 30, 2005

Camouflage Nation

Is there any other country on Earth as enamored with camouflage as this one?

I was walking down the street the other day and picked up a tossed beer can (as I usually do on walks, so as to "dispose of properly," meaning RECYCLE them). Well, this flashy, shiny "silver bullet" caught my eye. At first glance, the usual 16 ouncer Coors Light. But this can was a special edition "camouflage can." Yes, just in case the rushed Coors shopper wondered why this can had added brown leaves, black twigs and little streaks of green and white CAMO background, the can actually says right at the top: "camouflage can." Good thing, too, just in case the said Coors consumer wishes to consume said contents say, for example, behind the wheel of his pick up truck (with the gun rack in back) without the state trooper catching sight of a beer can in hand.

Thing is, the can is still shiny as ever. It's not really dull. If it were really camouflaged, it might be nearly all matte black - and be labeled - discreetly - V8 or Gatorade or something else besides (in big red and white letters) "Coors Light," which is commonly known to be a BEER.

So the idea is philosophical and patriotic, not practical. And patriotic in a national sort of way? No, patriotic in a branding sort of way, as in: "Hey, them Coors guys must be one of us. They must like hunters. They must, we can thusly assume, realy think guns are good, too. Yes, guns are good. I'm buying Coors and taking it with me when I load up my guns and ammo to drive out on the public thoroughfares, yes I am, you bet. Coors is the brew for me."

So do those British fox hunters get all worked up like this? Do those room temp brews they serve come in camo cans? How about the French? The Japanese? The Germans? The Russians? Some of those African tribes are real hunters. Hell, they're whole lives depend on hunting. They must throw back some of those African suds from a camo can.

How about our neighbors, the Canucks? They hunt big animals. Don't they drink Coors? Is there a camo can for Canada that's labeled in English and Quebecuoise?

Americans are so enamored with camouflage, they actually have a church for it. Yes, Cabela's is the American Church of Camouflage. Cabela's doesn't just carry a full line of hunters' garb, it's got camo toddler outfits and - yes, get this - camo diapers, so you can REALLY start 'em young. Now that's not just a Coors can, folks, that's a RELIGION. And Cabela's popularity (or at least its megastore locations) is increasing full bore. The tiny town of Buda, Texas, just south of Austin, recently welcomed the first Cabela's to the Lone Star State. To get the store there, Buda gave Cabela's millions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies and waivers - money every tax payer will have to make up.

Now as for the word camouflage, why, it's....FRENCH, of course. Hmmm, France, now there's a civilized country that knows to keep it's camouflage on its soldiers, where it belongs, neither on its beer cans nor the butts of its babies.

According to the website, here's an informal etymology:

This is one of those not so common words that came to English from French rather recently: World War I, to be exact. It comes from the French verb camoufler "disguise", which the French derived from Italian camuffare "disguise, trick", perhaps with the influence of French camouflet "snub", which was earlier "smoke blown in someone's face". Camouflet shows up in English (1836) referring to a bomb used to blow in the wall of a besieged room/building, the result being that the occupants are buried. Etymologist Robert K. Barnhart believes that the Italian camuffare comes from Medieval Latin muffula, meaning "manipulation".

With all this glut of camo, we can all go about sight unseen, I suppose, but then that would lead us even farther down that dark path that we already seem to be sticking to - the blind leading the blind.

Happy hide and go seek - I mean hunting - awl y'all.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Money Matters

OK, money isn't everything, and it can't buy you love. But it does make the world go round. Especially the first world. Especially our world.

And it seems some rather oceanic trends are starting to emerge these past few months. The tide is turning. If it's just the Moon's gravity, it'll just be a recession. If it's a tsunami or a hurricane, we'll have a full-blown DEpression on our hands.

Now some, who were rich enough to get some serious tax breaks can afford to weather the storm, but a lot of us - more than ever before EVER, it seems - are ripe for going under, even if it's just a tropical depression and doesn't even rank as a storm.

It's been reported this week that American's are failing to keep up with their credit card debts at record levels, defaulting on payments. The spending spree continues - and is even encouraged by the feds and the prez - but the load is loading up, and it could soon spill over the levees, which, as we know, have needed some major fixes for a long time.

The sea level of debt in this country has been rising right along with the temperatures around here - and the waves along the coast. So we've been needing to redesign, raise and strengthen those levees for quite a while. Having our piddling savings accounts insured by the FDIC is just not enough to keep up afloat and out of harm's way. And we've got record national debts piled on top of all those personal debts, so it's not like our credit is really top notch on any level.

Consumer spending took a "surprising" drop in August, and consumer confidence is lower than it's been in several years at least. So isn't pulling out a credit card (or accepting another credit card offer in the mail) a bit like fiddling while Rome burns? Or the Gulf Coast sinks?

Party on, patriots, 'til your tank runs dry - or you lose the mortgage on your house (or have to "downsize") just trying to keep your tank full.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tom DeLay, Who Else?

Try as we might, we here at "A Better Nation" cannot today resist saying just a few things about Tom DeLay, who today stepped down as majority leader of the House.

DeLay's stepping down is sort of like Michael Brown resigning from FEMA; Brown is still on the payroll at full pay. And so, of course, is Tom DeLay, as long as he remains a Representative employed by the United States taxpayers.

DeLay may be a more suave power wrangler than his nickname, "The Hammer," might imply. But he certainly seemed to earn the title as he launched into his remarks, obviously feeling that the best defense is a hammering offense. Here's how DeLay opened his remarks (well worth reading, especially for those of you who are snake oil salesmen or FEMA wannabees considering a run for office). DeLay today:
Good afternoon. Thank you all for attending.

This morning, in an act of blatant political partisanship, a rogue district attorney in Travis County, Texas, named Ronnie Earle charged me with one count of criminal conspiracy: a reckless charge wholly unsupported by the facts.

This is one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history. It's a sham and Mr. Earle knows it.

It's a charge that cannot hold up even under the most glancing scrutiny.

This act is the product of a coordinated, premeditated campaign of political retribution; the all-too-predictable result of a vengeful investigation led by a partisan fanatic.

Mr. Earle is abusing the power of his office to exact personal revenge for the role I played in the Texas Republican legislative campaign in 2002 and my advocacy for a new, fair and constitutional congressional map for our state in 2003.

Now, as I said months ago, in a post about DeLay in the first week of this blog last November, DeLay is innocent. He is innocent until proven guilty. We don't decide. A jury decides. So the questions are: Does the grand jury have a good case? Is District Attorney Ronnie Earle right to press the charges? Was DeLay himself personally, directly involved? If it's murky, he may not be found guilty, end of case.

But so many (even in his own party) consider DeLay smarmy, in general. And these days, he'll have coat tails that smell of sleeze spirit.

In his announcement today, DeLay said that district attorney Ronnie Earle's case against him was "an act of blatant political partisanship," saying Earle himself was a "partisan fanatic." But whose record really smacks of blatant political partisanship? Whose career of "public service" reeks of fanatical partisanship? Who's been the 'reckless' 'rogue'?

Ah, there, the jury is already in: Tom DeLay takes the cake.

He may now have to eat it, too.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Michael Brown: Bush's Quality Control Outted

Name: Michael Brown.

Job description: Croney.

Now let me get this straight, seeing as so few others have bothered to do so. Now Mr. Bush, in his first semi-contrite acceptance EVER for responsibility for a botched job, has said publically and nationally, for all to see, that he takes the blame for the federal government's sloppy involvement (and lack of involvement) in the pre and post Katrina debacle. Thank you, Mr. President.

Or did you mean: 'I take the blame right here and now in this speech, but tomorrow's a new day, and don't get me to say this again, 'cause my friends who work for me aren't going to take shit off no one'?

Seems the latter, I dare say.

Today, in obnoxious and insulting testimony before a congressional committee established to review FEMA and the government's plans and response, Michael Brown, who was taken away from his Katrina command and who then resigned as FEMA director almost three weeks ago - AND who is still on the government payroll as a consultant to FEMA - blamed state and local officials for not co-ordinating the relief efforts. Brown sounded like a gradeschooler, tattling in a whiny sort of way. And yikes for Mr. Bush, if anybody's paying much attention. Brown didn't play fall guy for Bush or the feds at all, for what FEMA did and didn't do in the wake of Katrina. It was all blame game, tit for tat (not that anybody yet has given a stellar performance,a t any level, don't get me wrong. But then this is Louisiana - we knew it was a state known for any more ambitious expertise than putting on a party).

So what's an upstanding leader like George Bush to do? He's taken the blame, but his FEMA director hasn't. Seems the cronies (I mean company) at the top better get their act together at some point before they all have to pack their bags.

Now Michael Brown. There's a guy who looks and sounds like a shoe salesman who last tried to sell me a pair of shoes that didn't fit and that I didn't buy. OK, maybe not shoes. Insurance? In a small town in Texas? I say we send him to downtown Port Arthur with a mop and a broom.

Yep, Bush's quality control is showing. You might well expect an incompetent head honcho to make sure everybody (or anybody) under his command has at least as much incompetence as he has, and that's how it seems to be going.

See any wise guys anywhere near the top?


Monday, September 26, 2005

Gold on the Hoof?

Now, about 72 hours after Hurricane Rita came ashore, it's looking like the cattle in southwestern Louisiana are getting more attention than a lot of New Orleans residents got 72 hours after Katrina. Yep, the president's back to getting his priorities straight. Save the oil and the cattle. That's a wildcatter Texan for you. Now who elected this guy president? Shame, shame.

Bush pretty much ignored the black folk for days, but show him a herd of Black Angus, and he's rarin' to go, sending in Black Hawk helicopters to herd and rescue the animals.

Are we paying for that? Are the cattle worth that? How much is THAT costing? Black Hawk helicopters? Don't they cost even more than a luxury SUV to rent by the hour? Much less the day?

Sounds nice and all, even humane, but the irony and absurdity of it all just can't go unnoticed, so please, folks, NOTICE!

And it seems the prez is so enamored of the military's G.I. Johnny-on-the-Spot role now with Rita, looking timely and impressive (since they even showed up early this time), now Mr. Prez wants to urge Congress to change the law to let the military run things like this from now on. Who needs that smarmy F.E.M.A. and that bunch of volunteers at the Red Cross when you can get military men in there looking like S.W.A.T. teams all over the place? And those guys won't waste time, Mr. President, even if you do.

No, it's still not the right thing to do. Bush has got the military almost in ku mode as it is, along with his and VP Cheney's pals at Halliburton. Who else do you need to run a country? Certainly not a lot of civilians.

No, Mr. B. No. Get F.E.M.A. fixed, and let the People - civilians, altruistic citizens - have a stab at conducting themselves with honor. And keep your grubby paws out of the honey pot.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Coming in for a landing

This is it, the lull now before the storm. Things have settled down around here. People this far away from Rita's ground zero seem to be where they want to be, probably parked in front of CNN and the Weather Channel with snacks and drinks, soft or otherwise.

(I do have some very good friends who live in the direct path of Rita, in the Port Arthur area. I hope my 83 year old mentor, Elton, who is like Mr. Magoo and just about as helpless (or is that hapless?), has been taken to safety and is doing ok. Best to you, Elton, wherever you are - out of the nearby bogs and bar ditches, I hope!)

The roads, stores and gas stations are calm again. Except I did just see a woman push a basket in the store this evening with ten dozen eggs, and ten half gallons of orange juice among other staples. I said "wow." She smiled and said, "We have 75 evacuees." Wow.

Now, as dusk turns to dark, I'm reminded of watching another infamous landing this summer - Discovery. I stayed up most of two nights for that one. I don't have a TV, so it's not like I can see a bunch of juicy video. But I may cruise back and forth between a few websites just to get in on the media action.

I've got a magnum of cheap French wine (a dry white, properly chilled) for the occasion. If I were having a social gathering, I'm sure we'd have to toast this soon to be slippery slumber party with something even cooler, ice cold frozen margaRITAs, with sea salt, of course.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Where Rita Hits the Road

Get this: A friend in Houston reports that some people stuck in the hundred mile long traffic jams trying to get north and west of Houston, for fear of running out of gas as others have done, just got out of their cars and PUSHED them along in the stop and go traffic. Obviously, the traffic was not moving much faster than a couple of strong-armed guys could trot anyway, and why not? Great!

Yes, nature rules. Nature rules!

But the whole exodus spectacle now going on in Texas really just goes to show how cocky and/or apathetic people in Louisiana were about Katrina. Not all deaths resulting from Katrina are a sob story. Some gambled and lost. That is what grown ups are generally allowed to do. Over 17, you can get married and buy lottery tickets - and "ride out" a hurricane, category one, category four or five, whatever.

But seeing the reality of the aftermath on TV - that's what got all these millions of Texans (and assorted Katrina evacuees) running north and west as fast as they can... WALK.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's the Rita-Ready-Or-Not Show, in Prime Time

Now it's our turn.

Wednesday about midnight, TX: It's just been announced that Rita is already the third strongest hurricane ever recorded. Hard to imagine winds that are swirling at 175 miles an hour. The thing looks huge on radar, a rapidly growing cancer cell of clouds literally engulfing the Gulf.

Traffic's been crawling out of Houston north and west toward Dallas, San Antonio and beyond. I live in Kerrville, a town of 25,000 70 miles northwest of San Antonio on I-10. Already the town in hopping. There were lines at the gas station today. The grocery store was packed, and the carts were piled high with staples, soft drinks, water.

One irony for us is: Kerrville made national news (CNN, et al) just two years ago for flooding in this area. I saw cars going down the creek and wedged up in trees just three blocks from my house.

This afternoon, "All Things Considered" interviewed a woman down closer to the coast who was closing down her convenience store, about to board it up. She'd sold out of just about everything to the evacuating scavengers making their way inland. "Cartons of cigarettes... twelve packs... and lottery tickets - can't keep 'em away from their lotto."

...Gambling with their dollars but not their lives. As some said, after seeing Katrina on the news, "I can't swim all that well." Yeah, and houses and fuel tankers hitting you in the head will send you to OZ real quick like, no slow mo drowning to it.

Kerrville is a tourist town with lots of motel rooms, but we are booked solid this weekend, and I hear most everybody has friends or family coming to visit from the coast. Everybody is stocking up.

It's kinda nifty. It's definitely got people talking to each other, just passing strangers waiting in line to buy deisel or TP. Everybody is talking about IT - the IT now being not just Rita but the hurricane season to beat all.

We've got two days left here of hot, sunny weather. Then, the clouds will come in and start to twirl. Welcome to the most watched hurricane ever - in advance of its coming to shore.

I've got decent batteries in three of four flashlights. I've got four jars of pasta sauce, about four pounds of pasta - and about four pounds of trail mix if I loose both the electricity and the gas. I'm set.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"1 Rita on the Rocks To Go!"

Einstein said "God does not play dice with the universe," but as it turns out, humans are ripe and ready to play dice with the planet. We rolled the dice, we got it. Welcome to the hurricane-happy happy hour of us cooking the planet.

Twenty years ago, climatologists began predicting that the Big GW (that would be Global Warming) would stir up hurricanes like a gallon of rot gut rum in a half naked virgin at Mardi Gras.

Yes, folks, welcome to what will almost certainly be the most "active" hurricane season since at least 1850. They're running out of names for these storms. Literally. I don't see how you could run out of names, and truly you can't, but leave it to stick-in-the-mud bureaucrats to say that when the 21 official names for this year are used up, we start over with... the Greek alphabet?

Huh? What's with that?

Give those storm naming guys over in Geneva (of all places) a hurricane (the kind that comes in a glass) before they make dumb decisions like that again. And why not use those other letters for names now and then, when in a pinch such as we are in now? In a tight spot, what's wrong with scraping together a few names that begin with Q, U, X, Y and Z. After Rita, there are just four more names to go: Stan, Tammy, Vince and... Wilma.

So after Wilma, we're going to... Alpha? as in Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta? Sounds like the sorority take over of tropical action to me, like Daytona Beach during Spring Break. That's the best we can do?

Maybe the nerdy sky guys who came up with this system are a little too sober. And they've slighted ever Q, U, X, Y and Z name in the book. Wilma? Alpha? We need some Q and U names quick, and what's wrong with Y and Z? Yori and Zebulon work for me.

Yukon and Zanzibar seem more creative and, shall we say, distinctive. Alpha? Beta? Gamma? Those might as well be storms from outer space.

Anyway, meanwhile, down in the Keys over the weekend, one bar owner was boarding things up to run from our "R" named storm and took just enough time to spray paint one last drink order for th hurricane to read and serve up (with a swirl) as it came by:

"Hey bartender, 1 Rita on the rocks to go."

You see those maniacally laid back nihilists down in the keys know how to do things right - sort of like their compatriots over in that other haven of debauchery, N'awlins. Seems people who live in the paths of hurricanes have, throughout much of history (at least since 1850, when modern hurricane history began), been quite the drinkers. Seems with good reason.

Nature rules.

I'd like my 'Rita frozen with salt, por favor. Too bad ice is going to be so scarce down in those parts. Things are definitely heating up. Even on TV, some mayors along the gulf are starting to break a sweat.

Yes indeed, Nature Rules.

Monday, September 19, 2005

"He's one of us"

He shore is.

Yes, in a special "Told You So" edition of A Better Nation, your kindly and increasingly patient and compassionate blog host is back again to tell you, there's a time to listen and learn and a time to get down on the ground and RUN.

Here to tell you: President Bush may not be "the People's" best friend (like they mistook him to be), but he SHORE is like 'em, why, he's one of them - SLOW to learn.

(He even says "you people." Does that sound like one of us? Well, oooops again.)

This ham-head is so stubborn and slow to learn from past mistakes and things not red hot on his radar that he's really gotten stuck in some deep muck now. Rumors are even some of the sane Republican base are backing off, fearing some nasty fallout come next year's mid-term elections.

Bush's ratings are at an all time low, and without that Ground Zero "bullhorn moment" to rally the troops (or anybody else), Bush is hanging in the wind, a wind that could go from being a tropical storm to a hurricane by deep NEXT hurricane season.

Hurricane season officially ends on November 30th each year. But Bush's chances of having any strength left as president may end a little earlier than that come next year. How about November 7, 2006? That would be national election day.

At least by then Mr. Bush will have a clear sign that he can start packing his bags - early.

Too bad a majority of voters haven't been quick enough to ward off this storm before it hits the heartland ('cause why? 'cause they're pretty much like him, slow learners, stubborn, got blinders on, believe God's doing all this anyway, dumb as a bag of hammers, they are). Yes, with it citizens, The Slow Majority's been winning these things lately. It was a vocal (but coastal and "elite") minority that saw this storm coming. But not enough were eager to listen - or angry enough to toss the flinty fellow out. Maybe now the tide really is turning all across the land.


Friday, September 16, 2005

friday test

friday test

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Google THIS!

Google has done it now.

Bloggers beware, SPAMmers rejoice.

CNN reports today, via the Associated Press, that Google has just created a special search feature just for blogs called, likely as it may seem, Google Blog Search. "Find blogs on your favorite topics"!!! (FYI, Google bought Blogger two years ago and is the host of all "" blogs).

I didn't know about this until I noticed a new wave of SPAM hitting the comments section of various blog posts of mine, new and old, all carefully crafted to entice the blogger starved for positive strokes..."nice blog...", "glad I read this...", and even "I'm not selling anything..."

At least it's not as bad as getting calls at home, but it still stings a bit. Really, lots of us bloggers ARE starved for constructive comments, and now comes this wave of stuff many of us will have to peer at. Even though I'd like to see my comments numbers going up, it's still quality not quantity that counts. So I, for one, will be removing every comment I determine to be SPAM.

As for other comments, btw, I don't cut out any of them, positive or negative. I do believe in free speech - and the freedom to proove oneself worthy of any adult conversation or a fool as the case may be - and often seems to be.

I do hope that Google Blog Search will bring more "real" readers to my rather esoteric neck of the blogosforest. So tell all your friends to try it out and see how it works. Search some esoteric keywords, and see what you come up with.

Meanwhile, SPAMmers go home.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


[Thanks to friend S. for sending these along.]

"Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand."

~~ Woody Allen

"There are a number of mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Mercedes-Benz 380SL."

~~ Lynn Lavner

"Sex at age 90 is like trying to shoot pool with a rope."

~~ Camille Paglia

"Sex is one of the nine reasons for incarnation. The other eight are unimportant."

~~ George Burns

"Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake a whole relationship."

~~ Sharon Stone

"My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch."

~~ Jack Nicholson

"Clinton lied. A man might forget where he parks or where he lives, but he never forgets oral sex, no matter how bad it is."

~~ Barbara Bush

"Ah, yes, divorce, from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man's genitals through his wallet."

~~ Robin Williams

"Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place."

~~ Billy Crystal

"According to a new survey, women say they feel more comfortable undressing in front of men than they do undressing in front of other women. They say that women are too judgmental, where, of course, men are just grateful."

~~ Robert De Niro

"There's a new medical crisis. Doctors are reporting that many men are having allergic reactions to latex condoms. They say they cause severe swelling. So what's the problem?"

~~ Dustin Hoffman

"There's very little advice in men's magazines, because men think, 'I know what I'm doing. Just show me somebody naked'."

~~ Jerry Seinfeld

"See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time."

~~ Robin Williams

" It's been so long since I've had sex, I've forgotten who ties up whom."

~~ Joan Rivers

" Sex is one of the most wholesome, beautiful and natural experiences money can buy."

~~ Steve Martin

" You don't appreciate a lot of stuff in school until you get older. Little things like being spanked every day by a middle-aged woman. Stuff you pay good money for in later life."

~~ Elmo Phillips

" It isn't premarital sex if you have no intention of getting married."

~~ George Burns

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Homeland Insecurity

It's good to know at last that President Bush can walk and chew gum at the same time. On Monday, from his first ground tour of Katrina-stricken Louisiana, fully two weeks after the storm hit, Mr. Bush reassured the American people and the world, saying "I can do more than one thing at a time."

Here he is, being quoted at CNN today: "We've got plenty of troops to do both. It is preposterous to claim that the engagement in Iraq meant there wasn't enough troops here, just pure and simple."

And as if it weren't quite so pure and simple, with the American casualty counts now rising a lot faster at home than in foreign wars, Mr. Bush reiterated his claim to having mastered the art of multi-tasking: "By the time I'm finished [being] president, I hope you'll realize that the government can do more than one thing at one time and individuals in the government can. If I'm focusing on the hurricane, I've got the capacity to focus on foreign policy, and vice versa."

Well, there you have it, pure and simple. Or is it? Pure? Simple? Up to now, Mr. Bush has wanted to focus on four things and four things only: (1) cutting taxes so the rich get richer, (2) securing contracts and kickbacks for his corporate sponsors, (3) conquering and containing Iraq, and (4) castrating the social services and federal protections of the American government. Now he's got this big fifth thing to pay attention to. I'll bet he is cursing Katrina up one side and down the other. 'Damn this storm, it's got everybody against me, they're all lookin' at me, and I'll have to stick my neck out for those people 'til I quit.'

'Hmmm, Any way we can get Bechtel and Halliburton in on this deal?'

Oh yes, Mr. President, with $100 million no-bid contracts just announced. Bechtel's up for one. Surely Halliburton is waiting in the West Wing for it's chance to sell us propaganda and pot pies down south and coast to coast.

This just in from CNN as well: "Americans seem to have shifted their focus away from Iraq and terrorist threats to problems at home. For the first time since the terrorist attacks on the U.S. four years ago, a majority of Americans responding to a poll by the Pew Research Center last week said it is more important for the president to focus on domestic policy than on the war on terrorism.

"Another poll by Time magazine found six in 10 Americans think the U.S. should cut back spending on Iraq to help pay for the storm response, while about the same number favor a partial withdrawal of troops from Iraq to help with storm damage."

All a sure sign of growing homeland insecurity. Too bad many more of the American people couldn't see this guy's snake oil salemanship coming before the 2000 election.

In recent polls, Mr. Bush's approval rating has dropped almost as fast as gasoline prices have risen, not that gas prices alone should be the measure of his ability to keep a lid on things - or walk and chew gum at the same time.

But then again, gasoline - not government - is Mr. Bush's real business.


Democracy For America is hosting a web petition to put pressure on the Bush administration for botching it's evacuation and rescue efforts. When you sign the petition, you can add comments. Here are mine:

"I strongly feel that the Bush administration's priorities are wrong. Bush clings to his war on terror and massive military expenditures (pork aplenty) while neglecting most of the rest of what the federal government should be doing for us. We (and he) shouldn't be blinded by short term profits and pork, and we don't need a war on anything, just a return to an American government which works wisely to restore, preserve and protect the long-term good of the people at home and around the world. The Bush administration's failure to set the right priorities and to be open and honest with all of us is an ongoing and devastating tragedy - and a set-up ripe for national decrepitude - and one disaster after the next."

Monday, September 12, 2005

While I Was Away: Katrina With a Capital K

Oh yes, while I was away there was this capital K Katrina thing, a big fish story so far little mentioned here at A Better Nation.

And oh yes, while I was away, someone else was on vacation. Have you seen the pretty funny fake photo of the Bush presidents (father and son) fishing (successfully, I might add) the flood waters in New Orleans? You can Google it. Meanwhile....

Mark Twain said there are four unique American cities, and I am sure you can take a wet and wild guess at one of them.

Yes, pirates and paupers and a confederacy of dunces and gay playwrights and Dixieland's desires, alleyways of old stone, a jazzy haven for whores and Superbowl fans and cravers of heapin' plates of crawdaddies, glasses heaped high with Hurricanes (the drink) and the bodacious sins of Mardi Gras and open liquor laws, underneath the peeling paint, a bit of the earthy Old World just down the river from the corporate New. A bawdy port with a long history of looting, over 400 years of lifting goods from the bowels of sailing ships to the bowels of Best Buy.

New Orleans may be under water and below sea level, but it's never been quite tied down to the rest of American culture. Hence it's akilter charm. But that sort of shadowy, drawling, opportunistic, back pocket/back room charm can lend itself to exacerbating calamity, as we can see.

New Orleans is one of Monsieur Clemens' picks, yuh, for true, as in, "Whann you gitdon to Cajun country, you gonna lahk'it for TRUE." New Orleans, seemingly metroplitan capital of this fluke of immigration, now more stuck in the mud than ever. Nawlins, the Big Easy, where it's easy to find crawfish and corruption and impossible to stay dry. You can get high there (legally or illegally) a lot easier than you can get to high ground. And that thick, rich atmospheric atmosphere, ah, even in winter, the humidity from Houston to Tallahasee is what I call "Gulf Glue." Like the seemingly incessant wind out on the high plains, it can seep into your skin and just drive you crazy. You get twitchy in that wind. You wilt in the thick haze they call "air" down there.

New Orleans. So many of us have been there, and it's famous to nearly everybody, whether you've been there or not. And it's photogenic, too. Those aerial shots from the helicopters look dramatic. They're telegenic. They draw viewers. They boost ratings.

So the medium leads the message. The hyperbolic declarations of 10,000 dead get some serious airtime until proven just that, hyperbolic, about as melodramatic and desperate as looters carrying television sets down the drowned alleyways of a city without electricity, much less any electrical plugs above water.

And as we knew there would be, there are some great human interest stories, good and bad and good again, and we can all feel reassured that the looters were a bad dream and that life and American civilization as we know it will go on - WITH $4 gas, coming soon to a station near you.

But day after day, it's the buildings of New Orleans that take center stage in this hovering, helicopter-driven scene. Meanwhile, as of today, more Katrina-related deaths have been confirmed in Mississippi than in Louisiana. But Mississippi lacks that grand old look of Nawlins, so the cameramen and "on the ground" reporters haven't flocked there, to those truly squalid shacks and trailers and muddy messes. New Orleans is old stone, and much of it will look as it did just a few months from now. I wager the tourist season will come back into full swing by Mardi Gras '06, if not Christmas '05. There will be fresh waves, not of water but of tourists sympathetic to the city, having loved it before or having always wanted an excuse to go there.

But who's curious to see how Mississippi will be doing six months and six years down the road. The second poorest state of the 50, right in there with the newly impoverished New Mexico. These two state vie for a number one spot nobody would want.

Wither New Orleans? There may be so much money and so many eyes watching the renovation of the city that it's entrenched corruption and decrepitude will almost certainly improve, meaning decrease.

Wither Mississippi? It's citizens may well be left behind, if not now and soon then certainly in a year or two, lacking as they do a photogenic French Quarter and king-sized Superdome and convention market and plain to see international notoriety.

Nawlins will rise again. But what about the South?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Overheard @ Old Faithful

Mr. A Better Nation goes undercover on the boardwalk at Old Faithful to discover what the peering public is really all about.

A slew of fresh and revealing quotations from the front of iconic tourism coming soon to a blog near you.

All real, in a new post coming on this date to ABN.

In the meantime, a few days of akilter vacation.

[Just got home and will fill in the gaps soon, promise.]

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Cathedral of Wolves

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY, 6:58 AM: We set out from our rustic cabin at Roosevelt to see what we could see in the "Serengeti of Yellowstone," the Lamar Valley, which stretches from north of Tower Falls toward the northeast entrance to the park and Cooke City, Montana.

By 7:15 we had found a few dozen earnest wildlife watchers scattered along the roadside, most within a few miles of the Yellowstone Association Institute, aka "Buffalo Ranch" (and yes, they're really "bison," technically "American bison bison," yes, not "buffalo).

And within a few minutes we'd spotted two wolves lounging and calling from across the river, about 1000 yards away. Then we spotted the ears of a third, sticking up above the tall, golden autumn grass. Then rumors of a fourth and then, yes, the fourth.

After another move down the road and another half hour, we'd spotted most of the local pack, EIGHT wolves - and heard the plaintive calls of two more, one over the hill behind us, one hidden across the river and into the trees.

More soon in an expanded post.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Shoshone Geyser Basin

Today, I did my longest hike this year, about 18 miles, from near Old Faithful to Shoshone Geyser Basin, the biggest of Yellowstone's backcountry geyser basins.

I saw another snake - that's four in four days.

I met another bison face to face on the trail - that's two.

And I had this eerie geyser basin all to myself for over an hour and a half.

More soon in an expanded post, same bat time, same bat channel.

So tune in again soon.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Old Faithful Under the Milky Way

'Bout 11 PM here in Yellowstone... Just got in from watching Old Faithful erupt under dark skies (no moon) but with enough lights from buildings and a few errant headlights to see the big plume of steam easily against the black of space. But the nifty thing was that the Big Dipper was right overhead. As the steam plume rose over 100 feet, it obscured the lower stars of the Dipper, quite a sight. And high overhead, the blotchy band of the Milky Way stretched far and wide.

There were a few other people out on the boardwalk, but I stood alone far from them, and all I could hear was the geyser itself.

Earlier today, I'd hiked past Fairy Falls to Spray Geyser and one of my favorite geysers, rambunctious Imperial, erupting with an amazingly consistent interval of just 15 seconds. And then I really got the heart pumping and the senses awakened by heading off trail and up and up another mile or so to the north summit of the Twin Buttes, affectionately known around these parts (to the hokey tour guides) as Dolly Parton's Hills or Marilyn Monroe's Mountains. When you get up on them, there's nothing breast-like about them. They are sort of spokey in their tracklessness. And being offtrail in a national park feels a little naughty - but an official guidebook suggested the excursion to get sweeping views of the Midway and Lower geyser basins as the same time, quite a sight.

And along the way, I watched the white head and white tail feathers of a bald eagle dive once, twice into a lake beyond the trees to catch a fish. I saw my second snake in two days on the trail, and high up in a fresh young forest on the butte, I was calling out and clapping to alert bears, but instead I came face to face with a huge and silent bull bison staring right at me. I gave him a wide berth and kept moving up trying to see in all directions around me.

I now wear a canister of bear spray when I hike alone or along any trail that is not busy. It's strapped to the sternum strap of my daypack, right there ready to go. Some wonder about the black cannister. Is that necessary? I say no, but do you wear a seatbelt when you drive? And I want to save the bear's life, too. If I or another person along the trail were attacked, the bear might be "put down," a terrible shame because no bear is at fault. But if the bear got a shot of pepper spray and turned tail, all might be saved, and that is as it should be.

I want the bears to roam just like I want the bison to roam.

And as for roaming myself, I'm such a goody two shoes nature nerd, I almost always stay on the trail (unless the guidebook corrupts me), but the trail is good for finding our way, not keeping us safe. Out here, miles from the parking lot and far beyond the aid if not the jurisdiction of the rangers, nature rules.

Nature rules.

It's a grand and haunting feeling to be alone.