Saturday, September 17


I discovered that in all three of the religions of Abraham [Judaism, Christianity, Islam], fundamentalist movements distort the tradition they are trying to defend by emphasizing the belligerent elements in their tradition and overlooking the insistent and crucial demand for compassion. -- Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness Knopf, 2004, p295

Hat tip to Public Christian.


George W. Bush says he plans to pay for his ill-designed smorgasbord of Katrina relief problems by cutting "unnecessary spending".

Presumably, at some point an intrepid reporter will ask him which $200 billion he plans to cut. But that will leave another question:

Mr. Bush has been President for four and a half years now, and his party has had complete control of Congress for two and a half of them. So why have he, and they, left $200 billion in cuttable waste in the budget?

Hats off to Mark Kleiman.


I've been thinking about how the astronomical costs of Bush's Iraq war (very nearly $200 billion and counting, at a rate of $5 billion per month), much of which has not been included in the budget numbers, and now his proposed Gulf Coast reconstruction (estimated at at least $200 billion) compare to the costs of his tax cuts (30-34% of which monies go to the wealthiest 1% of our citizens, depending on whether or not the cuts sunset). Those tax cuts have bothered me from the beginning -- it seemed criminal to squander the surplus Chimpy inherited from the (gasp!) Clinton administration when the money could have been better used to secure the longevity of Social Security, extend healthcare benefits to more of our people, improve our education system, you name it. So I did a little research. Here are a few basic facts about those tax cuts:

Even if the cuts sunset, we'll lose $1,724.1 billion of government revenue over the 10 years. If Bush had just extended the tax cuts to all Americans except the wealthiest 1%, which surely didn't need them, we'd have saved $541.4 billion of that revenue. That's more than enough to finance the Iraq war AND pay for the Gulf Coast reconstruction. Add another $178.4 billion to that total if you include the next highest 4% (annual incomes from $330,000-$468,000 -- they aren't hurting either).

The total cost of all those cuts including interest amounts to $2,603 billion. Without sunsets, over the 10 years we will actually lose $2,209 billion.

But what's gone is gone. Let's just look at the future losses, from 2006-2010. The Bush tax cuts enacted through June 2005 will cost us for these next years (with sunsets) $1301 billion in revenue. Without sunsets, we'll lose $1685 billion.

(Source: Citizens for Tax Justice, July 2005)

In fact, for all Bush's posturing and alarmism about Social Security, "the share of the tax cuts going to the top one percent of the income spectrum (about 0.5 percent of GDP) is of the same magnitude as the Social Security deficit."

The numbers are staggering. And these are real dollars not flowing into government coffers, thanks to the Bush/Cheney/Norquist ideology. The tax cuts haven't stimulated a "rising tide lifts all boats" kind of economy as promised, with real wages for Americans sinking instead. "A decline in real earnings of this depth and duration has never before been recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics." (Source)

THIS is the reality, and the results, of the Bush administration's "don't-tax-but-spend-anyway" policies.

So no one could have predicted that terrorists would strike on 9/11? Who was it, exactly, who chose to fight a costly war against a nation that had nothing to do with that terrible day? And nothing could have prevented Hurricane Katrina? Sure, but who was it that defunded renovation of the levees protecting New Orleans, thus costing billions more in reconstruction costs than the paltry millions the original project would have required? And finally, WHO had the bright idea to push for tax cut after tax cut, primarily benefitting the uber-wealthy, engineered billions in tax relief for bloated-with-profits energy companies, and promoted a transportation bill that includes tens of billions more in pork projects, thus denuding the federal government of the very revenue that would have kept us solvent and fiscally stable while providing the very dollars so badly needed to fund the president's own pet projects?

George W. Bush, THAT'S WHO.

It is imperative that Democrats, and all Americans, organize to defeat Bush's proposal to extend his tax cuts. "Making permanent the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 would have a direct cost of $1.8 trillion through fiscal year 2015, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates." We simply cannot afford to continue to spend like drunken cowboys after roundup (the analogy may be more apt than we know), accumulating the most massive deficits in our history, unless we want the U.S. economy to resemble that of a third-world country.

Wake up, America. Gamble any more on Bush, and you've deliberately thrown away your children's future.

UPDATE: Moderate Fareed Zakaria says Bush will go down in history as the most fiscally irresponsible chief executive in American history."

...if Congress did not make permanent just one of its tax cuts, the repeal of estate taxes, it would generate $290 billion over the next decade. That itself pays for most of Katrina and Iraq.

Friday, September 16


This TBogg post is too good not to share with my friend Sally, who's a regular reader and loves good sarcasm:

You have to give them credit for consistency in that they have again chosen inner circle over experience. In the Bush Administration you don't need experience or a solid background to take on any job as long as you exibit the correct ideology. You're a National Security Advisor whose specialty is a country that doesn't exist anymore? What could go wrong? Don't know anything about emrgency services? So what? Take a seat at FEMA. The Pentagon tells you that you need more forces on the ground to invade Iraq and different armor to protect them? What do those staff pukes know? Morning after pill? Intelligent Design? Global Warming? Science is soooo overrated.

Absolute certainty trumps reality everytime. Or hadn't you noticed?


I am really sick of hearing right-wing radio talk show yahoos throwing out, without citation, the information that FEMA debit cards distributed to help victims of Hurricane Katrina have been used to purchase items by Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands. In every case they sound gleeful and the clear implication of their context and disdainful tone is, "See -- THOSE PEOPLE (almost always a tipoff of racist intent) are wasting taxpayer money again. They're shiftless and either won't manage their money so as to take responsibility for themselves or they're just too ignorant to try." It brings to mind immediately the sly suggestions that the Rush Limbaughs of the world often make that all black people wearing Air Jordans bought them with welfare money or they've ripped somebody off.

The reason they don't back up the debit card charge is that the truth ruins their storyline:

The source told me that the two women who had made purchases with the card each bought a signature monogrammed Louis Vuitton handbag in the $800 range.

"They didn't look destitute by any stretch. You would never have said, 'They must be one of the evacuees.'"

Clearly, some of the debit cards got into the hands not of poor people, but someone a bit more affluent. Even the conservative New York Daily News called them "profiteering ghouls."


Just heard on local Dallas news radio: Florida Governor Jeb Bush's youngest son was arrested early this morning in Austin for public intoxication and resisting arrest. Jeb's daughter Noelle, you'll recall, has previously been arrested for fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance.

If I were related to the Bushes, I might be tempted to escape their unreality too.


Jonathan Chait is right. It is indeed amusing to watch conservatives struggle with how to pay for post-Katrina reconstruction. Pity they didn't do the same for the Iraq war, the pResident's tax cuts, and other gargantuan appropriation bills such as the infamous energy bill.

This is the problem with the GOP's fiscal hawks. They rightly complain about wasteful spending and call for budget balance. Yet they don't seem to grasp that the scale of the spending cuts they propose is nowhere close to the scale of the red ink. Accepting this fact would lead them to the realization that the cost of Bush's wasteful spending is dwarfed by the cost of his tax cuts, and down that road lies heresy.

I guess they didn't notice that under Bill Clinton, the infamous tax-and-spend liberals balanced the budget and left a surplus for George Dubya to inherit, huh? And while doing that, we reduced the percentage of Americans living below the poverty level EVERY YEAR of the Clinton administration. Amazing what a little competency can do, isn't it?

If this be heresy, let us make the most of it.


When Katrina hit, it blew away yet another administration-managed scrim of irreality. First for scores of reporters and then for millions of Americans, it connected so many things (including what was happening in Iraq and here) that might otherwise have remained unlinked for months or years more. It suddenly revealed, at an extreme, the world Bush has made for us. New Orleans is now a vast toxic dump (and, as at Ground Zero in New York after 9/11, a toxic cover-up is sure to follow, endangering relief workers today and returning residents tomorrow); the city's embattled wetlands are in dismal shape; a superfund toxic waste site remains underwater; the whole area may prove an "underwater Love Canal"; parts of the Gulf of Mexico are now covered with huge, if unacknowledged, oil slicks; and much of the damage, long and short-term, had a human hand associated with it.
Bush's assault on the environment makes perfect sense once you see the bargains that drive it. The fundamentalists give Bush political power; his corporate cronies get free reign to plunder the land for their profit; and the fundamentalists get the heads of nature-worshipping enviros on an arsenic platter. The rest of us, of course, get left behind.

More here at Mother Jones.


All the world's a stage, and George W. Bush is merely a player.

Josh Marshall brings this example of Bush photo-op faking to our attention:

I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.

Reminds one of the tale Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) related about her tour of the levees with Dubya.

But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment.


Via Mainstream Baptist, Ethics presents a different take on our presidentially proclaimed "National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina."

President Bush has declared Friday, Sept. 16, as a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"I ask that the people of the United States and places of worship mark this National Day of Prayer and Remembrance with memorial services and other appropriate observances," he said.

Bush called upon Americans "to pray to Almighty God and to perform acts of service."

Urging Americans to contribute financially to relief organizations, the president said, "We pray that God will bless the souls of the lost, and that He will comfort their families and friends and all lives touched by this disaster."

What would the Hebrew prophet from Tekoa say about a national day of prayer? ...What then would Amos say about a national day of prayer?

The text about feasts and solemn assemblies in the context of a message about social injustice gives us a straightforward answer. Amos would condemn a national day of prayer, if it is severed from a commitment to do justice.

He would likely see a nationalistic piety as false worship, offering comfort but not justice.

For Amos, justice today would mean a transformative faith in a sinful world. Justice means practicing fairness in the market place, working for an equitable society, empowering the poor, protecting for the powerless and pushing rich Christians to adjust downward their lifestyles.

Amos would surely condemn those political leaders who plan tax cuts for the wealthy, wage cuts for the working poor and budget cuts in programs that care for society's weakest members.

Will the prophetic message of justice surface at the heart of the national day of prayer? Will the preachers play politicians? Will the politicians play preachers?


Mr. Bush called for unity in tackling the problems. But with only a camera before him, and New Orleans silent around him, he could draw no strength or self-assurance from the cheers of a united nation, as he did when he addressed a joint session of Congress nine days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Not only did his own stagecraft leave him alone in the spotlight, but whatever good will flowed to him across the aisle in those moments after the terrorist attacks is long gone, a victim of a polarized political culture that he did not create but to which he has often contributed. -- NYT front-page story, Sept. 16

Mr. Bush's problem in dealing with Katrina has been, at bottom, the same one that has bedeviled the administration since 9/11. The president came to office with a deep antipathy toward big government that has turned out to be utterly inappropriate for the world he inherited. The result has not been less government, but it has definitely been inept government.

We have already seen what happened to the Federal Emergency Management Agency when it was taken over by an administration that didn't like large federal agencies with sweeping mandates. For Iraq, the White House asserted that open-ended and no-bid contracts doled out to big corporations run by people known to government officials would mean swifter, more efficient operations. What we got was gross inefficiency, which has run up costs while failing in many cases to do the jobs required.

Given this history, it's impossible not to worry about what will happen to the billions of dollars being committed to New Orleans, especially since the Army Corps of Engineers' top man in the reclamation effort was once the corps' top man overseeing contracts in Iraq.
-- NYT editorial, Sept. 16

The policies Bush outlined last night bear the distinctive stamp of a conservative president, a hallmark of an executive who has never shrunk from seeking to implement a right-leaning agenda even in the face of a divided country. They are long on tax relief and business grants and loans, and focused on entrepreneurial ideas. Bush already has drawn fire from Democrats for suspending the law that requires contractors to pay prevailing wages on federal projects in the regions, and there will be a battle over the proposal to provide private and parochial school vouchers to children of displaced families. -- Dan Balz, WaPo, Sept. 16

The president was all about optimism for the future--and only glancingly alluded to why the federal cavalry arrived so pathetically late. This was a night to hand out federal goodies (no mention of the budgetary impact, or whether his generic call for sacrifice might include sacrificing any other programs, such as abolition of the estate tax for the ultra-rich) Bush did devote a couple of sentences to talk about the problems of poverty and racial discrimination, two subjects he rarely addresses. But he quickly let that drop. He proposed a low-tax Gulf Opportunity Zone--but why has he never submitted such a plan for other blighted urban areas?...Four years after 9/11, Bush said, Americans have the right to expect a better disaster response. Ab-so-lutely! But what has the homeland security bureaucracy been doing since then? ...He said he'd cooperate with a congressional inquiry--controlled by Republicans--but made no mention of calls for an independent commission. -- Howie Kurtz, WaPo

Thursday, September 15


The pResident's 19th televised prime-time address, this one from Jackson Square, N.O.

First of all, it looked like Bush was taped before a green screen and a shot of the cathedral was edited in.

Bush's open-necked shirt appeared to be misbuttoned and blended into the background. Bad production work here. Also, the man is not good with a teleprompter, his eyes wander and make him look shifty. (The Big Dog was master of the TP -- he appeared to be making eye contact with the viewer, as if every word was spoken extemporaneously and directly and personally to one person.) The whole thing was very ho hum, speech-like.

Litany of supplies delivered, progress made. List of all the government agencies working on the problem. $60B appropriation. 300,000+ houses unoccupable. States will be reimbursed by the federal government. Mobile homes for temporary use. Overtime pay for PD and FD. Housing for PD FD and other workers. Federal money. Federal money. Auditors to review expenditures. (Bet many Republicans will be saying, "He sounds like a Democrat.") Want evacuees to come home. He's really working hard at this, he's just not convincing. Entrepreneurs are mentioned again (Bush's favorite people). $5000 for job training, child care, etc. Homestead thing. Where is this federal land? In the same place the trailer parks are supposed to be located, 100 miles from N.O. and away from any jobs centers?

Make flood protection system stronger (strong ENOUGH?). One of largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen (like Iraq?). America will be proud. Houses of worship, over and over.

"in a time of terror threats, the danger to our nation reaches much larger than a faultline or a flood plain."

"Not a normal hurricane, and the disaster system was not equal to it." (If we have an abnormal terrorist attack, will the system be equal to it?) What's a normal hurricane, anyway?

"System, at every level of govt., was overwhelmed in the first few days."

God who welcomes us to a house not made with hands. Lots of religious references, probably to placate his base since he's going to shock them with his spending recommendations.

Despair of many touches us all.

Analogy of jazz funerals. First a dirge, then triumph. Triumph of the spirit over death. Gulf Coast coming through the dirge. We will live to the second line.

Overall, a C. This was the most animated speech I've seen Bush deliver in a long time. But it was so obviously a photo setup, and he seemed almost desperate. Promises, promises. They're so late, I don't think they will be well received -- the people of the Gulf Coast will be skeptical rather than reassured. And his base will be wondering where the money's coming from.

One more example of Bush throwing huge amounts of money at a problem that could have been prevented by a little vision and smallish amounts of money. Americans just don't trust Bush with their money anymore. He's wasted too many billions already and not demonstrated that he can be trusted to run a government that is both effective and fiscally responsible.

Interesting that he didn't mention the fact that he's put his political guru, Karl Rove, in charge of the massive reconstruction effort. Remember all the stories last week about how unprepared and unqualified Michael Brown was to head FEMA? So nothing's REALLY changed, has it? The press isn't exactly exploding with news about the Rove appointment, which only demonstrates that nothing much has changed with them, either.

Katrina fatalities reach 710

Of course, all the dead have not been counted, but already conservatives are crowing, "See, it wasn't as bad as everyone was predicting." Thank God it appears the numbers may not be as awful as anticipated. But to put it even these 710 in perspective, here are the U.S. fatality numbers for previous disasters of the past 40 years:

2004 Hurricane Jeanne - 28 dead
2004 Hurricane Ivan - 30 dead
2004 Hurricane Frances - 48 dead
2004 Hurricane Charley - 34 dead
2003 Hurricane Isabel - 55 dead
1999 Hurricane Floyd - 77 dead
1999 Oklahoma-Kansas Tornadoes - 55 dead
1996 Hurricane Fran - 37 dead
1995 Hurricane Opal - 27 dead
1993 "Storm of the Century" Eastern Seaboard Storm/Blizzard - 270 dead
1992 Hurricane Andrew - 61 dead
1989 Hurricane Hugo - 86 dead
1969 Hurricane Camille - 256 dead
1965 Hurricane Betsy - 75 dead

Note that all four Florida hurricanes in 2004 totaled 140 deaths. Yet during that election year, in that crucial state, Dubya was on the job, approving aid an hour after Charley made landfall, and FEMA had made impressive advance preparations for both Frances and Ivan.


In advance of Chimpy's Big Speech due in a few minutes, these moments out of time, courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times and Political Humor:

"Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well." -- FEMA chief Brown, Sept. 1.

"Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job." -- President Bush, Sept. 2.

"I'm satisfied with the response. I am not satisfied with the results." -- President Bush, later that day.

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." –President Bush, on "Good Morning America," Sept. 1, 2005, six days after repeated warnings from experts about the scope of damage expected from Hurricane Katrina

"In what seems to be a ritual for this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed." -- New York Times lead editorial, Sept. 1.

"What didn't go right?'" –President Bush, as quoted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), after she urged him to fire FEMA Director Michael Brown "because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right" in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort

"Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?" –House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX), to three young hurricane evacuees from New Orleans at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept. 9, 2005

"I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving." –Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Sept. 6, 2005

"Many of these people, almost all of them that we see are so poor and they are so black . . . " -- CNN's Wolf Blitzer's well-meaning but unfortunate description of the evacuees, Sept. 1.

"Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." -- President Bush, cracking wise in Mobile, Ala., Sept. 2.

"What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them." -- Former First Lady Barbara Bush, sounding like a bad caricature of a "Dallas" character, in the Houston Astrodome, Sept. 5.

"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." -- Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.), Sept. 8, in a quip to lobbyists quoted by the Wall Street Journal.


The dastardly cynical opportunism of these people knows no bounds. Republicans, in the words of Congressman Rahm Emanuel (R-IL), are trying to "achieve ideological objectives they haven't been able to get in the normal legislative process." Shades of Iraq, where former U.S. administrator Paul Bremer waved his pen and gave the country that darling of the conservatives, the flat tax. As for other similarities to their performance in Iraq, I expect we'll eventually hear of billions of reconstruction dollars handed to Bush crony companies simply "disappearing" with no penalties for the companies who can't account for the lost funds.

If they're successful in creating the kind of top-down society they want along the Gulf Coast, look for them to exploit more disasters for their experiments in social regression. As of now, they control all three branches of the government. Who's going to stop them from doing whatever the hell they want?

Congressional Republicans, backed by the White House, say they are using relief measures for the hurricane-ravaged Gulf coast to achieve a broad range of conservative economic and social policies, both in the storm zone and beyond.

Some new measures are already taking shape. In the past week, the Bush administration has suspended some union-friendly rules that require federal contractors pay prevailing wages, moved to ease tariffs on Canadian lumber, and allowed more foreign sugar imports to calm rising sugar prices. Just yesterday, it waived some affirmative-action rules for employers with federal contracts in the Gulf region.

Now, Republicans are working on legislation that would limit victims' right to sue, offer vouchers for displaced school children, lift some environment restrictions on new refineries and create tax-advantaged enterprise zones to maximize private-sector participation in recovery and reconstruction.
Many of the ideas under consideration have been pushed by the 40-member study group, which is circulating a list of "free-market solutions," including proposals to eliminate regulatory barriers to awarding federal funds to religious groups housing hurricane victims, waiving the estate tax for deaths in the storm-affected states; and making the entire region a "flat-tax free-enterprise zone."
Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R., Kan.) said that the plans under development "are all part of a philosophy of lowering costs for doing business."
[editor's note: code for "increasing corporate profits"
Republicans, meanwhile, say they will also press for a new round of energy concessions, including incentives to rebuild and expand offshore drilling and clear the way for new refineries that were dropped from a 500-page energy bill that passed last month.

Wednesday, September 14


Bill O'Reilly is insisting that Bush is a greater friend to the poor than was Bill Clinton.

Halfway through President Clinton's tenure in office in 1996, the poverty rate was 13.7 percent. Halfway through President Bush's tenure, the rate is 12.7 percent, a full point lower.

In 1996, the Clinton budget allotted $191 billion for poverty entitlements. That was 12.2 percent of the budget and a whopping amount of money. That's why Bill Clinton (search) was called the first black president by some.

However, the Bush 2006 budget allots a record shattering $368 billion for poverty entitlements, 14.6 percent of the entire budget, a huge increase over Clinton's spending on poverty entitlements.

What O'Reilly failed to note, or tell his audience, was that Bill Clinton inherited a 15.1% poverty rate from Dubya's father, George H.W. Bush, and by the time Clinton ended his tenure that rate had fallen nearly FOUR POINTS to 11.3%. The poverty rate has steadily risen during the second Bush administration, from the 11.3% inherited from Clinton to 12.7% in 2004. Bush hasn't BETTERED Clinton's record, he's worsened it every year since he took office.

2004...... 12.7
2003...... 12.5
2002...... 12.1
2001...... 11.7
2000...... 11.3
1999...... 11.9
1998...... 12.7
1997...... 13.3
1996...... 13.7
1995...... 13.8
1994...... 14.5
1993...... 15.1

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

I don't give a flip how much money is spent in "poverty entitlements" -- that's a bogus number, probably reflective of ineffective spending on Bush's part, since the mountain of money he continues to throw at issues has had little effect other than to create enormous deficits. The bottom line is, the poverty rate under Clinton was reduced EVERY SINGLE YEAR of his administration. Under Bush, it has increased EVERY SINGLE YEAR of his administration.


Heard a terrific exchange this morning between former Texas judge Catherine Crier (R), now of Court TV, and Dallas radio talk show host Darrell Ankarlo. Crier has written a new book, CONTEMPT: How The Right Is Wronging American Justice. Crier contends that the U.S. judicial system, though imperfect, has evolved very much as the founders intended. Ankarlo very much took exception to that, insisting that the founders were Christians whose intentions have been undermined or perverted by liberals, especially over the past 20 or so years. Crier said, "You're just wrong, Darrell," calling them deists instead of Christians, and she and Ankarlo made a $10,000 wager on who was correct. (Can't wait to see if Darrell ever pays up!)

Crier noted that a solid majority of federal justices, including the Supreme Court, are Republican appointees, not Democrats. She went on to say (intermittently reminding Darrell and the audience that she's a "Texas Republican") that when the ultra-right wing attacks "activist judges," it's usually moderate Republican judges they're howling about.

Great debate. Can't wait to get hold of a copy of Crier's book.

Monday, September 12


Where was Cheney? Nora Ephron has a theory.

Is it possible that the President and the Vice President have fallen out? I mean, I’m just asking. But if you remember September 11, 2001 -- and I’m sure you do -- the President had no idea what to do, but the Vice President did. The Vice President took over. He didn’t even consult with the President. He put the President on Air Force One and the President spent the day flying from one airport to another, which was something that even the President eventually understood made him look as if he wasn’t in charge.
It’s always been clear to me that five years ago, when all those Republican guys got together and realized that George Bush could be elected president – and that he wasn’t remotely capable – they came to an understanding: they would walk him through it. I’m sure it seemed like a swell idea, especially because it meant that they’d be in a perfect position to convince him to do all sorts of exciting things they had always wanted to do.

Cheney was the point man. Cheney was the guy they put on Meet the Press. Cheney was the person who seemed always to be the first responder. Cheney was the official they put into the bunker last May when a plane flew too close to the White House; Bush, who was bicycling in Maryland, wasn’t even told about the episode until forty minutes after it was over. Even Laura Bush, who was in the bunker with Cheney, publicly questioned the decision to keep the President in the dark.

But if you look at the chart in Sunday's New York Times, which tells you who was where when Katrina struck, Cheney doesn’t even get a listing. It’s Bush, Chertoff, Brown. Bush I and Bill Clinton were summoned to help. But Cheney didn’t even turn up back in Washington until last week, when he was sent off for a day of spouting platitudes while touring the flood zone.

Like the curious incident of the dog that didn’t bark in the famous Sherlock Holmes story, Cheney’s the missing person in this event, and one has to wonder why. If he were a woman, I would guess he’d been busy recovering from a face-lift, but he’s not. So I can only suppose that something has gone wrong. Could the President be irritated that Cheney helped con him into Iraq? Oh, all right, probably not. Could Cheney – and not just his aides -- possibly be involved in the Valerie Plame episode? Is Cheney not speaking to Karl Rove? Does the airplane/bicycle incident figure into this in any way? And how is it possible that the President is off on vacation and the Vice President is too? Not that it matters that much if the President is on vacation; on some level, the President is always on vacation. But where was Cheney?

Just asking.


"No, I haven't talked with Michael Brown, or Secretary Chertoff, that's who I'd be talking to. As you know, I've been working." -- George W. Bush, in response to a reporter's question, "Have you accepted Michael Brown's resignation?"


Couldn't believe what I heard Sean Hannity say this afternoon on his radio show. When a caller suggested that Bush and the federal government's response to the Hurricane Katrina crisis might have been lacking, Sean exploded, "Nobody knew it was coming, nobody knew the magnitude, and they thought it had passed by!"

I guess all those dire warnings from the National Weather Service before Katrina made landfall that caused Bush and the governors to declare states of emergency were just hallucinations. And who besides Bush and his spokespeople ever thought the region "dodged the bullet"?

Knight Ridder has done a creditable job of documenting the failures.

There were many other instances of bungling. Federal officials, accustomed to serving a supportive but not commanding role in a disaster, waited for specific requests from state and local officials. Local officials, overwhelmed, trapped by the devastation around them, and unable to survey the damage, couldn't gather the information they needed to make specific requests. Radio communication was impossible and phone service as bad.

"You don't have to be a genius to know when the storm hits, you're going to need water, food, diesel, gasoline, evacuation needs, helicopters, boats, medicine," said Terry Ebbert, New Orleans' director of homeland security. "So why does someone call me up when I don't have any communications and ask me, "What do I need?' The system needed to go into automatic."
On Saturday evening, around dinnertime, the Hurricane Center's Mayfield made a round of phone calls to top state and local officials. He wanted to impress on them the severity of what was about to happen - and to be able to go to sleep that night knowing that he'd done everything in his power to save lives.
Now Mayfield told Nagin, who was having dinner at home with his wife and 6-year-old daughter, that this was the worst hurricane he'd ever seen and that public officials ought to do everything in their power to get people out of the way.

"It scared the crap out of me," Nagin recalled. "I immediately said, `My God, I have to call a mandatory evacuation.'"
As he was speaking, the National Weather Service at 10:11 a.m. [Sunday] issued a warning that Katrina, by then a Category 5 storm - the most severe, with winds of 155 mph or more - would make most of southeast Louisiana "uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer." The forecast predicted "human suffering incredible by modern standards."
At the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters near Tulane University in central New Orleans, the phone call came into the bunker at 5 a.m. Monday, just as the storm was blasting the city. The caller said that there was a breach in the levee along the 17th Street Canal, which runs along the boundary between Orleans and East Jefferson parishes.

No news could have been worse. The levees were the reason that a Category 4 or 5 hurricane hitting the city had long been considered one of the nation's most likely catastrophes-in-waiting.
Mayor Nagin told reporters there were unconfirmed reports of a breach on the 17th Street Canal during a 1 p.m. news conference.


Did you catch Sen. Tom Coburn (OK-R) of the Judiciary Committee today choking up and tearfully pleading for less partisanship, less divisiveness, and less polarization? As if it were the fault of Democrats! Sen. Coburn is one of the most extreme members of the Senate. No doubt he believes Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck are "fair and balanced."

His bizarre, myopic statement is on par with the new conservative meme that Bush and the Republicans "never defend themselves" against Democratic slanders and unfair charges, as I heard on Sean Hannity this afternoon.

UPDATE: To his credit, Sen. Lindsey Graham said that both parties have played a part in the polarization. However, I don't recall any Democrats charging any Republicans with anti-Americanism or suggesting that they are traitors because they don't agree with our positions.


I must have missed something: Lou Dobbs just reported that the Treasury Department wants to force credit card companies to double the minimum payment of consumers by the end of the month. Average consumer debt is $9000 per family, so the increase would be about an additional $200 per month. More here. Yikes. It couldn't come at a worse time, with gasoline prices escalating. Where do they think that extra money is going to come from? Such a move could drive many families who live paycheck-to-paycheck into bankruptcy.

Their thinking was that the minimum payment doesn't diminish debt, and the Treasury Department thought that it should. This is reasonable and logical, but the change will be painful for many, and with the bankruptcy bill scheduled to take effect October 17, that option is removed.


Welcome to no-fault government.

Sunday, September 11


This morning both Tim Russert and Wolf Blitzer replayed Howard Dean saying he doesn't think this president cares about all Americans. Howard said Bush may be a nice guy on a personal level, but his policies have been disastrous for the middle and lower classes. Tim's and Wolf's guests (Nancy Pelosi, in Wolf's case) demurred from the former and agreed with the latter.

At this point I don't understand how ANY well-informed person could disagree with Howard's remarks, INCLUDING the first. I challenge anyone to name a single thing Bush has done to demonstrate caring for the less-well-to-do of this nation. And don't bring up the Medicare prescription bill -- that was a boon to the pharmaceutical industry, pure and simple. Bush may put on a good show of "compassion" when there's a camera pointed at him, but the "proof is in the pudding," as my grandmother used to say. And his policies clearly reflect where his true priorities further enriching the already wealthy and advancing corporate interests.

"IT'S 1925...AND WE'RE HEADED FOR 1929"

David Broder issues a warning of another impending disaster:

For all the deserved criticism the Bush administration has received for its tardy and ragged response to the storm's ravages on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the long-term costs to the nation of the reckless disregard both the president and Congress have shown toward paying the nation's bills may be even greater.
The warning signs of impending economic calamity are every bit as evident as the forecasts of ruin for New Orleans when a major hurricane hit.
At a private dinner the other evening where many of the men and women who have steered economic and fiscal policy during the past two decades were expressing their alarm about this situation, one speaker summarized the feelings of the group:

"I think it's 1925," he said, "and we're headed for 1929."


With New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin looking on, Dallas Mayor Laura Miller on Friday announced a campaign to raise private dollars to move Hurricane Katrina evacuees into apartments around Dallas. Miller said the city aims to raise $3 million in private donations to cover the first two months' rent for as many as 800 Katrina households.
Nagin and Miller both expressed frustration with FEMA's involvement in helping the hurricane victims who are now in North Texas; the Dallas mayor said the city is not waiting for federal and state help to move Hurricane Katrina victims out of the city's shelters.

"There is some chaos going on, and dysfunction with the federal government," Miller said. "Dallas can no longer wait."


"An anti-government conservatism in an era of national danger doesn't make any sense." -- Newt Gingrich

"What you're seeing right now [Katrina] is what you're seeing in Iraq. It's a matter of incompetence." -- Fahreed Zakaria


BushCo and EPA covering up dangers of toxic water in New Orleans.

Mr Kaufman claimed the Bush administration was playing down the need for a clean-up: the EPA has not been included in the core White House group tackling the crisis. "Its budget has been cut and inept political hacks have been put in key positions," Mr Kaufman said. "All the money for emergency response has gone to buy guns and cowboys - which don't do anything when a hurricane hits. We were less prepared for this than we would have been on 10 September 2001."

He said the water being pumped out of the city was not being tested for pollution and would damage Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi river, and endanger people using it downstream.

Shades of 9/11, when the administration pressured the EPA to minimize the dangers?


NYT editorial Revising 9/11:

Without realizing it, we had internalized what happened four years ago in a rather tidy story arc: Terrorists struck with brutal violence and the country responded. Everyone rose to the occasion - rallying around New York City, comforting the survivors and doing "whatever it takes" to make the country, if not totally safe, at least totally ready for whatever came next. Mistakes were made, but we would learn from them, and wind up stronger and better prepared.

Given the area it affected and its potential death toll, Katrina perfectly simulated a much larger terrorist attack than the one that hit New York. It was nearly nuclear in scale. Everyone did not behave well. Local first responders went missing, or failed to rise to the occasion, or were simply overwhelmed. Leaders did not lead, and on many counts the federal government was less prepared to respond than it had been when the World Trade Center towers still stood.

We felt that 9/11 had changed our lives in an instant, that we had been jerked out of a pleasant dream. The difference in the blow that Katrina struck was not merely that we could see it coming. It was that, as a nation, we thought we were already fully awake.
[emphasis mine]

It is yet to be determined whether or not America is, even now, fully awake. Every time an incident occurs that progressives hope will shock the electorate into understanding that the VRWC is working diligently, and successfully, to advance an agenda that will effectively destroy the ability of the government to address the real needs of the people, I despair when evidence abounds that, in fact, Dubya and his party have once again made fools of Americans. BushCo is extraordinarily good at lulling.

Considering that at least a third of voters, and a vast segment of the media, are still demonstrating that they will swallow whatever obfuscation the Bush administration throws at us despite the "facts on the ground," I would argue that until Mister Sandman (Bush) disappears from the scene, America will not fully rise from its stuporous sleep.