Monday, September 26, 2005

Still working . . .

Now, I can't just build bookshelves. That would be too easy. I gotta make 'em fit in somewhere. Since I already built a set under the stairs (it's a nice little alcove), I figured I'd build the new ones across from the old.

And of course, I can't just throw a back on 'em. That would be boring.

I cut up all them little strips of 1/2" ply. I like plywood for shit I'm gonna paint. I make the carcass out of good shit, just so it doesn't warp under the weight, but I can get creative with the fascias using the ply. (Painting doesn't require as much finish work either.)

Shayna, the Supervisor.

These are the ones I built a couple years back.

Monday, September 05, 2005

You want a plan?

The Dems have a plan.

Katrina Relief Plan for Senate Action This Week

Although the Congress last week appropriated $10.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Defense Department, it is clear much more will be needed given the enormity of this disaster. While government authorities and others assess the scope of the problem and decide how much additional funding will be needed to address specific problems, there are a number of legislative items the Senate can and should promptly approve that can help Katrina’s victims. After the Senate has completed action on this emergency legislation, we hope the Senate will quickly provide significant new funding, and consider other substantive proposals that could help address short- and medium-term needs. These proposals must be followed by a much broader, long-term effort to rebuild and rehabilitate the Gulf Coast region and substantially improve efforts to prevent, mitigate and respond to future disasters.

The following are just some examples of proposals that Senate Democrats believe deserve immediate Senate action this week:

Ensuring health care for all displaced victims

* Immediate access to Medicaid for displaced victims.
* No need to prove residency or assets
* No copayments
* No penalties for failing to sign up for Medicare Part B in time.

To ensure access to medical care, we should ensure immediate access to Medicaid for displaced victims. Paperwork requirements should be streamlined and asset requirements waived to ensure that victims, many of whom have no legal documents in their possession, can enroll in the program with little red tape. Residency requirements for participation should not apply to these victims to allow them to obtain health care services around the country. In addition, copayments should be waived for these people as they struggle to meet other needs as well. The Federal government should bear the full cost of these changes, and ensure that no affected state suffers a reduction in Federal Medicaid funding (their “match rate”) for other populations. This proposal is based on a similar successful initiative after the September 11 disaster.

We also should provide compensation to health care providers who provide a disproportionate share of the care for these victims.

Displaced victims should not be penalized for late enrollment in Medicare Part B because they have become newly-eligible or have lost coverage from another plan during this time. Similarly, everyone from the affected states should have an additional year to enroll in the new Medicare drug benefit and its low income subsidies. The automatic transition of dual eligible beneficiaries from Medicaid to Medicare drug coverage should be delayed in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, with the Federal government bearing the full cost of those people continuing Medicaid drug coverage.

Getting victims housing

* Emergency housing vouchers for displaced victims
* Expedited application procedures with no red tape.
* No tenant contributions until they find work.
* Tax incentives for private families to take in victims.
* Identify federal facilities that can house victims.
* Relief for homeowners facing threat of foreclosure

FEMA has said that up to 1 million people may need housing assistance. The Senate therefore should immediately authorize the Department of Housing and Urban Development to create and distribute temporary emergency housing vouchers to victims, without many of the restrictions that apply under the existing Section 8 low-income voucher program. For example, victims should not have to document their income levels, and tenant contributions should be waived until they find work. HUD also should be authorized to increase existing limits on allowable rents given the likelihood that rents in Gulf Coast areas will increase substantially for the foreseeable future. HUD needs to take over primary responsibility for distributing vouchers since many of the region’s local housing authorities are not functioning at full capacity, if at all.

Given the scarcity of rental housing, we will need to rely on private individuals and families to provide free room and board to victims. To encourage this, we should immediately approve a tax subsidy for those who provide such assistance to Katrina’s victims.

To help identify locations to house victims, the Administration should be required, within 10 days, to release an inventory of federal civilian and defense facilities that can be used to provide emergency housing, or as locations for the construction or deployment of temporary housing units.

We should increase aid to owners of damaged homes by waiving current law caps on home repair assistance (now $5200) and home replacement assistance (now $10,200). In addition, we should waive a requirement that individuals leave their home to qualify for home repair assistance, a rule that threatens to exacerbate an already massive demand for shelter in the region.

We should reestablish the Temporary Mortgage and Rental Program, which has been used in the past, including after the September 11 disaster, to provide assistance to homeowners and renters facing financial hardship. This could be important for many victims who otherwise could lose their homes through foreclosure.

Getting victims to family members and friends

Many of Katrina’s victims have little or no access to transportation. Although FEMA has legal authority to address this, the agency seems overwhelmed and has proven unable on its own to meet the compelling needs of countless numbers of stranded victims. We therefore need to make this a White House priority and direct the President to lead a broad effort to quickly ensure that displaced victims can get to family, friends and others who can provide them with room and board.

Getting students into school

Many of Katrina’s victims are children who need to enroll in a new school. To encourage schools to accept these victims, and alleviate some of the resulting burdens, we should provide funding to school districts that accept displaced children. This funding could be used to hire additional teachers, teachers’ aides, or counselors, or to provide temporary expansions of classrooms. A similar program should be provided for institutions of higher education that admit displaced students.

Bringing victims’ families together and placing them with other families

The government should establish a toll free “800” number and web site through which victims could access a national victim database and information about available assistance. Displaced individuals could register and provide contact information, so that separated family members and friends could find each other. The database also would allow volunteers to sign up if they are willing to provide free shelter to victims.

Getting victims cash to meet other basic needs

To ensure that victims can get cash for their basic needs, we should strengthen and expand the Disaster Unemployment Insurance Program and automatically extend any expiring UI benefits that victims are receiving. We also should give the President authority to increase the $26,200 statutory cap on cash assistance through the Individuals and Households Program, and should waive the 25 percent matching requirement for States in the Gulf region. In addition, victims should be allowed to withdraw funds from individual retirement accounts (IRA’s) penalty-free, with extra contributions permitted later.

Providing financial relief to victims and National Guard

Katrina’s victims, and National Guard involved in disaster operations, should not be obligated to make payments to the Federal government in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. There should be a short term moratorium on obligations such as:

Student loans
Individual and corporate income taxes
Small business loans

In addition, disaster victims filing for bankruptcy should be treated differently under the bankruptcy code in recognition of their particular hardship.

Ensuring victims have access to food

We should ensure that the many victims of Katrina who are struggling to obtain food have access to food stamps through a streamlined application process. States should be provided relief from the additional costs associated with administering the food stamp program for victims.

Restoring order

We should provide law enforcement funding where needed to help protect innocent citizens from crime and to ensure that there are places in which to imprison dangerous criminals. In addition, we should authorize federal courts to convene outside of their ordinary location in the event of an emergency, such as the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Helping victims get jobs

Private employers should be given an incentive to hire displaced victims by temporarily qualifying them for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which can reduce an employer’s tax liability by up to $2400 per qualified new worker. In addition, the Federal government should establish a temporary preference for hiring displaced victims who are qualified for jobs.

Moreover, many displaced workers now lack the documents they need to secure employment under Federal law, such as passports and birth certificates. This law should be relaxed temporarily so that victims can legally obtain work without such documents, so long as they can provide a valid Social Security number.

Supporting the National Guard

We should ensure that Guard units serving in the Gulf Coast effort be considered to have been mobilized under Title 32 (they are currently mobilized through the states). This would qualify them for federal benefits and ensure that their service counts as active duty for the purposes of retirement, health care, and other benefits. It also would make them eligible for the Family Separation Allowance if separated from their families for more than 30 days, and could provide relief from creditors and foreclosures.

Requiring accountability

We should require the President to submit regular reports to the Congress on the status of recovery efforts, the number of victims who remain without decent housing, jobs, etc., and any additional resources or action needed to address the crisis.

Don't let it be said that the Dems can't come up with anything. From Atrios.

Insulting Potemkin

Billmon admits he does it:

[. . .]

Of course, calling Bush the Potemkin president is actually a gross insult to the genuine article -- Prince Grigory Potemkin, the man who allegedly had fake villages constructed on the shores of the Dnieper River in order to impress the Czarina Catherine during an official inspection tour.

[. . .]

But history also tells us the real Prince Potemkin was a hard-working, conscientious public servant who carried out his duties with considerable skill. At this point, it's looking less and less likely that history will ever say the same about Shrub.

[. . .]

He goes on to draw parallels between Bush and the last days of the Nazi regime:

[. . .]

For many Germans -- fanatical Nazis as well as the naive and the weak-minded -- believing Hitler's absurd promises of ultimate victory was the only alterrnative to accepting a world in which evil (Bolshevism, world Jewry) had triumphed and good (National Socialism, the Aryan superman) had failed. Such a world was either unimaginable, or unendurable.

Likewise, for the conservative ultras to accept Bush's failures now would be to admit the patriotic demi-God constructed after 9/11 by the White House propaganda machine (and, ironically, by the mainstream media ) doesn't exist. All that would be left would be the real Bush: the incompetent, arrogant rich kid who's failed at every significant job he's ever held -- from CEO of Arbusto Energy to commander in chief of the planet's most powerful military machine. For many Bushistas, this is equally unbearable.

[. . .]

An excellent post, though I don't completely agree with his final conclusions (I still have faith in my fellow Americans they will correct their political mistakes), I do believe we have some serious work to do on our system of government. Don't groan, but yes, it's time for another excerpt:

[. . .]

Sedona, Arizona

Dinner had been spectacular, both Mariana and Soledad combining their talents to produce a Mexican feast. Most of NoahCorp's senior staff was on hand, as well as the President's people. They'd all retired to the library, breaking into small knots of those from both groups who shared common interests. Clarke spotted Kim near the door and sidled up to her.

"I like the shirt," Clarke said, modeling the polo shirt that had been placed in his quarters. It was blue, with the ubiquitous Ark and Animals embroidered on the left breast and the words 'The Man' on the right.

She smiled at him. "I figured you would, Mr. President. Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Indeed," he agreed. "Jen and I got a chance to go riding before dinner. We haven't done that since the boys were young."

"The view of the valley is awesome from Dead Man's Rock; isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. You've done so much here, yet preserved the natural beauty."

"You can thank Kate Beu for that. In five years, all of our facilities worldwide will be environmentally friendly."

"I can thank Kate Beu for that dull ache at the base of my skull," Clarke said. "How do you put up with her on a daily basis?"

"Kate and I have known each other half our lives," she said. "She's been that way since she was young. I guess I'm used to her."

"The flautas were wonderful,"Amy Stokes said as she made her way over to them.

"Yes, I'm debating declaring eminent domain over Mariana and Soledad and bring them to cook at the White House," Clarke announced with a smile.

"They're not going anywhere," Kim countered. "Neither Kate nor I can cook worth a damn." She took three snifters from the sideboard and poured them each cognac. "Why don't we take a walk?" They followed her down the front hall, out the front door, and across the drive onto the sand. It was a warm eighty degrees for this time of year and this time of night and Stokes stepped out of her shoes, walking barefoot by the shore.

"We have things to discuss, Mr. Clarke," Kim said, taking a deep sniff at the top of the glass.

"Yes, we do," he agreed. "I believe we must work out our differences in order for both of us to fulfill our responsibilities." He was being magnanimous, giving her an opening, but she wasn't ready to take it just yet.

"I am able to fulfill my responsibilities with or without your help. You are the one having the problem separating business from personal."

"Then why did you have us here? Why didn't you just tell me to go to Hell when I asked to meet with you?"

"Because I want to work with you," she said, turning to face him. "I believe we both know the choices that will have to be made over the next few years, and I believe that you and I share the same vision."

"So Steve and Amy keep telling me," he said, taking a sip of cognac. Clarke looked to Stokes, who'd moved farther down the shore, aimlessly strolling through the shallows. "Yet I have no idea of what you envision for this country. I can't help thinking you got me into the White House so I can be your rubber stamp."

"Have I asked you for anything since you've been elected?"

"Aside from Kate Beu ranting at me weekly, no," Clarke admitted.

"But you're still sitting there, ineffective for a year, waiting for the other shoe to drop; am I right?" She stopped, sipping her drink.

He looked at her for a moment, wondering about the depth of this young woman. "Partly; but I'd also like to know what you envision for the future, where you see the country going over the next five years. You have the resources to do so much and I believe we can cooperate in certain areas," he tried the offer again.

"That is a given," she nodded, "look at what we're doing in space. Within the year, the work on MarsPort will begin. It would have taken the government fifty years to get this far if NASA was still in sole control of space."

"Exactly," Clarke agreed. "And the power plant replacement is another area where we agree." Another example of the revolutionary nature of the Force Engine was the ability to produce them to fit many applications, from powering lawnmowers to providing electricity for whole cities. NoahCorp and the federal government had begun a program to replace all of the oil, coal and natural gas fired power-generating plants with the pollution-free Force units.

"I'm glad you brought that up, Mr. President," Kim said as they resumed the walk, the house now only small glowing points of light. "We've been planning, for some time now, to begin the same type of program in more depressed parts of the world."

"Such as?"

"We have an initiative package prepared for the African continent and we'd like your support with it."

"What kind of incentives?"

"A socio-economic package, sir; consisting of a plan to improve the infrastructure and the standard of living. We plan to start with an electrification project in Kenya."

"Africa is a quagmire, Kim," Clarke warned. "The political situation is unstable, even in countries we consider democratic. Until they become organized, I doubt you'll have much company over there. I'm sure you know that you stand to lose a lot if the political situation goes to Hell."

"We intend to help them with that, as well as set an example to American business that it is safe to invest in Africa."

"What kind of help?" Clarke could just imagine, and Kim didn't answer. "I will not be part of a coup," he said.

"Who said anything about a coup?" Kim shook her head. "General Okwu is the best thing for Kenya. He just needs to get his priorities straight. We intend to show him the path to salvation," she let a giggle sneak out.

"So what do you want of me?"

"We'd like you to support him, and his position."

"The United States already does, as we do with all the African democracies."

"But you'll drop him like a bad habit if things become unstable over there. I'd like you to solidify your support for him, maybe work out an agreement for the U.S. to train their army the right way. It would do much for world opinion if you helped change them from uniformed thugs into real soldiers."

"Okwu's grip on the military is tenuous. The military power is in the hands of local governors, not the man in Nairobi," Clarke suggested.

"That will change," she told him. "We would like you to support him when those changes take place. He will need a strong ally."

"He's a crook, Kim. Why do you think we only send humanitarian aid to them? We have to step lightly with regard to getting involved with him militarily."

"We'd like you to get involved environmentally as well," Kim said, ignoring his response. "We'd like the U.S. military to help them with the poaching problem, as well as the administration of Kenya's national parks."

"I can't just call up and say we're sending the Army in to round up their criminals for them."

"No, that would be pretty obnoxious;" Kim agreed, nodding her head. "I'd wait until they asked you for help."

"What makes you think Okwu will ask?"

"We're sending a delegation to Nairobi on Monday to point out the error of Okwu's ways. Kate Beu and Billie Jean Westover will be overseeing things."

"Kate isn't really the diplomat, my dear," Clarke said with a laugh.

"Billie Jean will make sure she doesn't start a war. Would the First Lady be willing to join the delegation?" Kim asked before taking another sip of the cognac.

Clarke stopped again. "That would imply the tacit support of the U.S. government, at least from the administration. I don't know if I want to put us in that position, and it also links the administration too closely with your interests. The Republicans are still grumbling about your involvement with the Democratic Party."

"Let them grumble. There will be delegates from Ford, GM, Bright Star Internet, and DataLink International, to name a few, it wouldn't be just NoahCorp."

"NoahCorp owns ten percent of Ford and fifteen percent of General Motors and Bright Star and DataLink are NoahCorp spin-offs. It's thin cover, Kim." Clarke had to smile.

"But I can get away with it and so can Jen. Public opinion is on my side and the country loves her. They will not care about the relationship between NoahCorp and the others."

"George Felder won't like this. We only have a consulate in Nairobi since the bombings there in the nineties, and the lack of an ambassador would require him to make the overtures to General Okwu. He'd have to leave for Africa tomorrow morning."

"From what I hear, there isn't much past routine and mundane going on over at Foggy Bottom," Kim replied. "I'm sure George would welcome the opportunity."

"What will this get me?" Clarke asked finally.

"A greater influence in Africa. If we are successful in Kenya, others will want to partake in that success. If we're successful, Nairobi and Mombassa will be compared to Johannesburg and Pretoria in a few years. For us to move into the future, the standard of living in Africa has to be brought up to that of the rest of the world. This is the first step."

"So you envision a prosperous, democratic Africa?"

"Yes, eventually. They have to be brought from the Dark Ages into the Twenty First Century and it has to happen relatively quickly. The wider the educational, economic and technological gaps become, the more difficult, read costly, it will be to help them. And we will have to help them, whether it is now, or years down the road. I'd rather it be now."

"What kind of political structure do you envision for them?"

"Well, eventually leaders like Okwu will have to go, but we need influence with the major tribes. Okwu, regardless of his shortcomings, has managed to unite the different tribes that comprise the population of Kenya. If we consolidate his power and strengthen him, he will bring others into line. By the time the next Presidential election in Kenya rolls around, we will have organized a large part of the government and the chances of a moderate being elected are good. If the government remains stable during the transfer of power, it will be an incentive for more business to invest there."

"What are your plans to keep them stable?" It was another question Kim chose to ignore. "You can't keep me in the dark, not if you want my help."

"Our plans are fluid, Mr. President, but suffice it to say that we intend to take an active part in their political process."

"I'd like assurances that you will not do anything to embarrass this administration. I will not stand for what your mother did to President DeVore during the congressional hearings," he wagged a finger at her.

"You have my word. We would not want our part in that publicized either."

"What is your ultimate goal for Africa, Kim," Clarke asked. "Why are you risking all this?"

"I'd like to see Africa take after the model of Europe, with one economy, ruled by one government and a legislature. It would be easier for them to modernize that way. We'd also like to see their economy change from an agrarian one to an industrialized one. Environmentally, it would be better if their population were concentrated in urban areas."

"And what about Europe, and Japan for that matter? They will not appreciate the U.S. building a trading relationship with the Africans. They have been undergoing a recession since the Osan Accords were signed," Clarke observed.

"They need to realize their place in the food chain, Mr. President," Kim declared. "They are still under the illusion they are imperial powers and they will suffer as long as they cling to that. We, meaning NoahCorp and other concerns, will not let the European economy founder, but they will have to come down off their pedestal to share in the prosperity. That goes for the Japanese too."

"What do you want from them?" Clarke pressed her.

"I want them to accept a deal resembling the one the Chinese and Russians did, Mr. President. I want them to lower trade barriers and abandon the Euro, accepting the dollar as a standard currency. When they are prepared to do that, I will make my best effort to expand operations and encourage others to do the same."

"Some of the individual countries are sending representatives next month," Clarke advised her. "They have expressed the desire to work out agreements independent of the EC. How do you feel about that?"

"I'd only ask you take my opinions into consideration when you negotiate."

"In your perfect world, then, the U.S. dollar would be a global currency," he asked.

"It would simplify things; don't you think?"

"It follows that someday, you envision a global government." Kim smiled at him, not answering again. "That is your goal, isn't it?"

"Let's just say, Mr. Clarke, that I envision you being the last President of the United States."

[. . .]

"That hints of treason and conspiracy," Clarke said when he caught his breath. Even Amy Stokes turned her attention to the two people fifteen feet away.

"Not at all, sir," Kim said. "It goes back to our choices and our ultimate goals. We both know the world is too small to be governed by close to two hundred different political entities. There will come a time when the redundancy of government will be too cumbersome. Hell, it already has."

"Are you suggesting the United States begin a campaign of imperialism?"

"Of course not," Kim looked at him as if he were oblivious. "Forcing others to one's will only breeds resentment."

"Voluntary unification under one government won't work, it can't work. Too many are only concerned with personal power."

"It will work, Mr. Clarke; it has to. The planet Earth does not have the resources to support the population and allow for all to share in the prosperity we enjoy here. The 'have-nots' will eventually be desperate enough to try to take what they need from the 'haves'. All must be allowed to share the wealth and that means we have to begin to exploit the worlds that are close to us. The Moon and the Asteroid Belt are the first steps, and a city on Mars will be a reality in my lifetime. We have to slow the growth of population on Earth and begin to sow the seeds of colonization soon. A world government is the only way to achieve real change on a reasonably fast timeline."

"While I am still President?" Clarke chuckled.

"You are the best hope. Chances are a conservative administration will follow yours and the climate for world government will chill. We must act now, before the end of your second term, in order for the movement to have enough inertia to continue through a slowing of the economy, and a conservative move toward isolationism. Your opponent preached that during the last election and it would have been close if not for his troubles. I'd rather not have to wait for two decades in order to make this a reality."

"And you expect this to be accomplished in under seven years?"

"Yes, you can do it," Kim said confidently. "With our help, of course."


"You and I will work on that together, but we have to begin to bring Africa up to speed."

"I do not think you are dealing with reality, Kim."

"Forget about what I said about globalization if that helps you," she said, a bit irritated, but she had to let him do this his way. "Help me with this initiative in Africa and see what happens. That's all I ask of you."

"And if I say no?"

"Then you say no and I do it by myself. Contrary to what you believe, Bob, I do not want to manipulate you. I want you to act out of your own free will. If I wanted a yes man in office, I wouldn't have supported you. You're too much trouble." She gave him a warm smile.

"What about the next election? Will you support me then if I don't go along with this now?"

"Yes, I pledge my support to you for as long as you want it, Mr. President. You are the best thing for this country whether you work with me or not. I want you to be successful and I am prepared to give you as much, or as little, help as you want."

"As long as I leave you free to do what you want to," Clarke said smugly.

"NoahCorp obeys all the laws of the land, sir. We pay more than our fair share of taxes and we are extremely philanthropic."

"Except when someone gets in your way," the President countered.

"We protect ourselves, Mr. President. We do not conduct offensive operations without provocation."

"As you did in Germany?"

"I should let them kill me?"

"You could have canceled your appearance; taken yourself out of the equation and no one would have gotten killed."

"And they would have been free to make the attempt on my life again. I don't think so, sir. I took them out of the equation and those four will not be able to reenter it."

"Who were they?"

"I don't know."

"Who sent them?"

"I'm not sure."

"You're lying to me, Kim."

"If I am it's for your own good. As President, there are some things you don't need to know."

"You sound like the CIA Director."

"You know the reasons you have to be kept out of the loop on certain things. There are things about NoahCorp that I don't know, and that is for my, and the company's, own good."

"Is that why you warned me to stay out of Europe?"

"I didn't make that call, Mr. President," Kim insisted. "And I don't know who did. That is the truth."

"Who else could? Technologically, it should be impossible. That is what the Signal Corps tells me anyway."

"I have some ideas, nothing certain. I don't play games like that," Kim shook her head. "If I wanted you to leave Europe alone, I would have told you personally. It would be foolish of me because I know you wouldn't listen. Make your best deal with the ministers and let the chips fall where they may. The Europeans will come into the fold soon enough."

"Does Mike Markham know?"

"My Intel Chief and the CIA Director are in contact daily. I'm certain Mr. Markham is aware of NoahCorp's position in Europe."

"Can you answer one question for me?"

"I'll try."

"Will I regret giving you my support?"

"Indirectly; that is, if the First Lady is going along with Kate," Kim joked. "I'm sure she will get under Jen's skin right off."

"If that's the worst that can happen, I can live with it," Clarke said with a smile.

Kim raised her glass. "To Africa," she said.

"To Africa," he agreed and touched his glass to hers.

[. . .]

-From Technocracy © 2005 RH Wood and Blue Dog Ltd.

Maybe it's time for progressives to start thinking this way. Long term. There's been precious little of that in the last few years. Yes, everybody knows I'm a globalist, as evident in my writing, but, as Billmon says:

[. . .]

The ultimate Potemkin Village, in other words, may be the archaic structure[s] of the American republic. And while it will certainly take a much stronger hurricane than Katrina to blow it down, history suggest that such storms do come along, eventually.

[. . .]

I'd rather we started planning for the future than have it thrust upon us.