Saturday, September 24


Crowds opposed to the war in Iraq surged past the White House on Saturday, shouting "Peace now" in the largest anti-war protest in the nation's capital since the U.S. invasion.

In the crowd: young activists, nuns whose anti-war activism dates to Vietnam, parents mourning their children in uniform lost in Iraq, and uncountable families motivated for the first time to protest.

Connie McCroskey, 58, came from Des Moines, Iowa, with two of her daughters, both in their 20s, for the family's first demonstration. McCroskey, whose father fought in World War II, said she never would have dared protest during the Vietnam War.

"Today, I had some courage," she said.

While united against the war, political beliefs varied. Paul Rutherford, 60, of Vandalia, Mich., said he is a Republican who supported Bush in the last election and still does — except for the war.

"President Bush needs to admit he made a mistake in the war and bring the troops home, and let's move on," Rutherford said. His wife, Judy, 58, called the removal of Saddam Hussein "a noble mission" but said U.S. troops should have left when claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction proved unfounded.

"We found that there were none and yet we still stay there and innocent people are dying daily," she said.

"Bush Lied, Thousands Died," said one sign. "End the Occupation," said another. More than 1,900 members of the U.S. armed forces have died since the beginning of the war in March 2003.

Thousands of people attended smaller rallies in cities on the West Coast, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Franciso and Seattle.

UPDATE: It could have been as many as 300,000.


Our fine, upstanding Republican youth.

This is what the GOP is raising up, the next generation of "compassionate conservatives." It should be featured in every MSM news outlet. America needs to know the kind of values being propagated by the party that controls all three branches of our government.


Michael Berube objects to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) using a Down Syndrome child as a prop in the Roberts hearings.

Beautifully expressed by someone who KNOWS.

I would just add, the very people who are most anxious to force women to bear children with fatal diseases or severe handicaps are the very ones most likely to oppose legislation to improve the quality of those lives once they're actually BORN.


A national disgrace.

From what I hear through an Army friend in Iraq, it's continuing. Should we be surprised? If the command structure denies it is happening and covers it up, what are our line soldiers to think?

I'd like to think that our people realize that if a deed has to be done under cover, if we fear to disclose it to the world, then the rightness of the deed is suspect.



Signs (with flashing lights) on southbound highways out of Dallas: "Travel to Houston discouraged."

Evidently many Houstonians are trying to go home. Traffic in Dallas today is horrendous.


Dr. Bruce Prescott adds another dimension to my previous post about Bush's attempts to fund faith-based social services, and how national disasters are being used to further the establishment of religion in the U.S.

It's not hard to see what is happening here if you just ignore their pious sounding rhetoric and look at the reality of what they are doing. They are slowly creating an established church. It is being established not by a direct act of congress (that would violate the First Amendment which says "congress shall pass no laws respecting the establishment of religion"), but indirectly by government appropriations. Christian churches and religious groups are being funded while minority faiths, with tokens here and there for the Jews, are being marginalized as a matter of public policy.

A good example of this establishment of religion by appropriation is taking place in Houston. A couple weeks ago Texas State Representative Garnet Coleman told participants at an Americans United forum that Second Baptist Houston "bought" the right to direct relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the city. He said they came in with a million dollars and offered it for the relief efforts on the condition that they take control of the effort. He also indicated that the church's much publicized assent to work with the interfaith community was forced upon them by the mayor of Houston. Coleman asked, "Why is this church that never showed an interest in helping the poor in the past suddenly interested in leading this effort?" He answered, "They are making an investment. They know that billions of dollars are going to be funneled into this and they are the ones who will be in position to control it."

By the time the graft, corruption and injustice of what is now being done in the name of "faith-based initiatives" and "hurricance relief" is widely known and publicized, the Supreme Court will be stacked with jurists who will deny minority rights and interpret the constitution to mean that Christianity has always been the established religion of our nation.

For more about the conspiracy/agenda of the religious right, read this. To better understand the intent of the framers of the Constitution regarding establishment of religion, read this.


Conservative pundits are countering assertions that in the wake of Bush's proposal for $200 billion to be spent on Hurricane Katrina reconstruction, the president's tax cuts should be rescinded or allowed to sunset, in particular the repeal of the estate tax, by arguing that Bush's tax cuts have stimulated the economy and enabled this fantastic prosperity that we're all supposed to be enjoying (what planet do these guys live on, anyway?). The result, they say, is MORE revenue generated for federal coffers, not less.

The fact is, that's sheer bunk. "The recent growth in revenues simply means that the large revenue shortfall is not quite as severe as previously thought. While revenues in 2005 will be significantly higher than revenues in 2004, a point that proponents of the tax cuts have begun to trumpet, revenues in 2004 were at a stunningly low level — the lowest level as a share of the economy since 1959."
"No reputable economist, liberal or conservative, has ever shown that tax cuts pay for themselves, and economists are virtually unanimous in concluding that tax cuts reduce revenue. This consensus holds even among economists who have served at high levels in the Bush Administration.

"For example, N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers during the President Bush’s first term, wrote in his popular introductory economics textbook that there is “no credible evidence” that tax cuts pay for themselves, and that an economist who makes such a claim is a “snake oil salesman who is trying to sell a miracle cure.”

Data from the CBO report that:

(1) A surge in economic growth is not behind the unexpected increase in 2005 revenues. "CBO stresses that much of the recent growth of revenues has occurred because of a boom in corporate tax receipts rather than in taxes on wages and salaries."

(2) The recent revenue rebound has not made up for the large revenue shortfalls that have developed since 2000. "The recent increase in revenues follows three consecutive years (2001-2003) in which revenues declined in nominal terms, an extremely rare occurrence, and a year (2004) in which revenues were lower as a share of the economy than in any year since 1959. Even with the recent increase, revenues in 2005 will remain well below the levels at which they were projected to be when the 2001 tax cut was enacted."

(3) Many of the factors behind the increase in revenues in 2005 are temporary. "The expiration of a business tax cut at the end of 2004 is leading to an increase in tax collections of about $50 billion this year, according to past estimates by the Joint Committee on Taxation. In this case, the increase in revenue stems from the termination of a tax cut, not from a tax cut’s effect in spurring the economy...The corporate tax legislation enacted last October contained a provision (relating to profits that U.S. companies have earned abroad and kept overseas) that was designed to produce a one-time gain in revenues this year. The one-time gain will be followed by revenue losses in subsequent years. Another contributing factor is higher-than-expected inflation, which generates higher revenues. To the extent that 2005 and future revenues are higher because of higher inflation, this growth would be largely offset in later years by higher expenditures."

(4) Federal revenues remain low as a share of the economy, and the long-term fiscal outlook remains grim. "CBO’s new report reveals that revenues will fall as a percent of the economy after 2006, assuming that the tax cuts enacted since 2001 and current AMT relief are extended."

(5) The increase in revenues does not confirm the “Laffer Curve;” tax cuts do not pay for themselves. "Revenue collections grew much more robustly in the 1990s — when taxes were increased — than in the 1980s, when taxes were cut sharply. Not coincidentally, the nation’s fiscal position improved substantially in the 1990s, after deteriorating in the 1980s."

UPDATE: Beth Shulman has a relevant article in Tom Paine: "Trickling Up."



I just got an e-mail from JOHN KERRY (D-MA). He'll be voting AGAINST John Roberts for Chief Justice of the U.S.



UPDATE: Add Barbara Boxer of California and New Jersey Sens. Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg to the list.

UPDATE: Evan Bayh joins the "I-won't-vote-for-Roberts" group.

Ditto Barack Obama.

Friday, September 23


Though today work had me busy as a one-armed paper hanger, like everyone else in Dallas I stole every moment I could to check on Hurricane Rita. Driving in this morning the radio was full of reports of the horrific bus explosion just south of Dallas that took the lives of at least two dozen elderly and/or sick citizens. The bus was a charter hired to evacuate 45 people from a Bel Air nursing home. Apparently sparks from faulty brakes ignited a fire in the bus, then the flames caused oxygen canisters used by the passengers to explode. Passers-by called in, and the sheriff's department sent deputies who were able to assist some of the passengers off the bus and to safety before flames engulfed the bus, making further rescues impossible.

Reports have abounded over the past couple of days of thousands of cars (and the families occupying them) stranded, out of gas, on the side of the road, after a dozen to eighteen hours to move 10-40 miles on the traffic-stalled road to Dallas (ordinarily a five-hour drive). Gas was almost impossible to find, and the stations that still had some available were gridlocked with blocks-long waiting lines. An eighteen-year-old girl died of dehydration. For a stretch of about 36 hours Governor Rick Perry kept promising that tanker trucks were going to show up to refuel the stranded cars. No-one seemed to ever see them. Traffic was so incredibly congested that early this morning Houston mayor Bill White was telling anyone who hadn't already hit the roads that they'd be better off weathering the storm at home.

The media, especially conservative media, has been full of favorable comparisons of the great and able Texas preparation for this hurricane to Louisiana's "inept" and "lacking" performance re Hurricane Katrina. What I've observed is that Republican Perry DID learn some lessons from Katrina, but still made mistakes of his own. Yes, Perry saw to it that stores of food and water were prepositioned, as were National Guard troops. If Houston, like New Orleans, sees thousands of residents unable to leave under their own volition and stranded for days without provisions, Perry will seem wise indeed. But Perry called for an evacuation of the nation's fourth-largest city, the largest evacuation in national history, and yet didn't anticipate that the egresses from Houston were not sufficient to allow four million people to escape without extraordinary measures such as shutting southbound freeway traffic out of Houston to allow all lanes to be used as evacuation routes (ordered only this morning, two days after the evacuation began) and that failure of imagination caused a delay in providing gasoline tankers and water distribution trucks for evacuees caught in a traffic gridlock that resulted in tremendous hardships for those heeding Perry's instructions. Texas cities already straining under the demands of their generosity towards Katrina victims were unprepared to absorb the hordes exiting Houston, Galveston, Beaumont, and other threatened areas. I see no indication that Perry had located or communicated to evacuees safe havens as destinations.

The real lessons of both Katrina and Rita are that every city has its own peculiar challenges in preparing for a disaster. FEMA is responsible for aiding every American city in developing a crisis plan that will take into account its own unique environment, potential hazards and available resources. Judging by what we've seen in the past month, the agency has failed miserably in that charge.

Thursday, September 22


Little Margaret Carlson talks tough:

Exactly how the money is to be found — or spent — we don't know yet, and neither does Bush. He can't seem to stop giving speeches long enough to figure it out.

At the moment, it looks like Bush is going into the Gulf Coast the way he went into the Persian Gulf, betting on untested theories concocted by ideologues. In this case, they're not coming from neocons such as Paul Wolfowitz but from Jack Kemp and other free marketeers, with an emphasis on tax incentives, empowerment and enterprise zones, and a suspension of regulations Republicans have long hated.

Where the public sees war and natural disasters, those around Bush see profit centers. Market forces should decide whether (and who) will build suburban trailer parks as far as the eye can see while workers are paid less than the prevailing wage.
As we learned from FEMA's disgraceful performance, cronyism and incompetence is a way of life in the Bush White House. Does anyone think those contractors who bilked the U.S. out of billions in Iraq will ever pay for it?

Maybe the arrest on Sept. 19 of a top Bush procurement appointee, caught up in the case against the world's sleaziest lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, will shine a spotlight on White House business practices. Then perhaps the next plague to descend on the Gulf Coast won't be a tidal wave of graft.
[emphasis mine]


Traffic on Dallas freeways was horrendous today, a result of hundreds of thousands of Houstonians and other residents along the Texas Gulf coast fleeing their homes and attempting to find shelter inland. Dallas has absolutely no available hotel rooms -- we're expecting a huge convention this weekend (wonder if they'll reconsider?). My own company had taken 200 rooms at a local hotel for a meeting but canceled it because so many of the executives attending were connecting through Houston. One major benefit of the cancellation was the releasing of those hotel rooms to evacuees.

People on the roads are reporting traffic jams out of the Houston area that result in 10-12 hours to move 60 miles. Highways have been closed to southbound traffic and all four-six lanes opened up moving north to facilitate the evacuation. I talked to people who were closing up our Houston office yesterday, and one guy told me his family was heading all the way to Oklahoma City just to be safe.

By all reports, Hurricane Rita is going to be a monster. They're even telling us now it will hit Dallas Sunday evening probably as a category I, possibly a II. But everyone I know has turned their thought to the New Orleans area, just hoping and praying that Rita will have negligible effect on the Big Easy.


Via the Progress Report, "Progressives can do better."

With great fanfare, and recalling the "Gingrich Revolution" of the 1990s, House conservatives yesterday proposed a broad set of spending cuts they said would help offset the costs of the Katrina reconstruction effort. Their plan reduces the budget by $500 billion over 10 years, and does so in large part by dismantling programs that invest in middle- and working-class Americans. Progressives can do better. It's possible to cut far more unnecessary federal spending, accomplish it in half the time, and do so while upholding the principles of fiscal responsibility and concern for the common good.

THE CONSERVATIVE APPROACH: The proposal announced yesterday cuts substantial funding from several "long-standing targets of conservative scorn," like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the foreign operations budget. The largest proposed cuts are targeted at Medicaid, "the health care safety net for low-income children, elderly, disabled, pregnant women and parents." The plan cuts $225 billion by converting the federal share of certain Medicaid payments into a block grant, and $8 billion more by increasing Medicaid co-payments. Eliminating subsidized loans to graduate students slices off an additional $8.5 billion. $11 billion more is saved by passing restrictive new rules for federal retiree health care and federal pension programs.

Aha! That's brilliant, increasing Medicaid co-payments. So they'd have us help the poor people of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by charging them more for only healthcare to which they have access.

A PROGRESSIVE APPROACH -- MORE SAVINGS IN LESS TIME: A progressive approach to trimming the budget could result in greater savings over a shorter period of time. For example, rolling back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans would save $327 billion over five years. Cracking down on offshore tax shelters would save $65 billion over the same time period. Simply allowing Medicare recipients to purchase drugs through the mail would save $43 billion over five years. Repealing subsidies to the fossil fuel industry contained in the recent energy bill fwould save $8.5 billion. Shelving costly and unnecessary weapons systems would save $200 billion. Getting rid of counterproductive agricultural export subsidies would save $30 billion over the first five years alone. Giving up half of the 6,371 special earmarked projects of the 2005 transportation bill would save an additional $12 billion. A progressive approach to trimming the budget could cut $688 billion in federal spending over just five years.

READ THE WHOLE PLAN. The irony of the Rethugs proposing cut after cut in programs benefitting the poor in order to fund the pResident's plan to help the poor of the Gulf Coast makes it painfully obvious that the real goal is to reconstruct New Orleans the physical plant, not New Orleans the community (same for Mississippi Gulf residents). Once again, Bush's fine phrases are exposed as nothing but hot air. The proposed cuts include school lunch subsidies, Federal support for SCHIPs (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) for low-income children, allowing the Social Security Administration -- when it makes overpayments -- to collect the amount no matter how great, reductions in the Bureau of Indian Affairs school construction and refurbishment budget, cuts in all kinds of conservation programs and health and education programs for minorities, community health centers, lower the budget for the Centers for Disease Control, level funding for the FAA...

It's effing unbelievable. Conservative House Republicans will do almost anything to protect sacred tax cuts for the wealthiest of our citizens.

This is war.


On August 26 I posed the question, Is Bush drinking again or just acting as if he is?

National Enquirer answers the former question with a "Yes."

A Washington source said: "The sad fact is that he has been sneaking drinks for weeks now. Laura may have only just caught him — but the word is his drinking has been going on for a while in the capital. He's been in a pressure cooker for months."
Dr. Justin Frank, a Washington D.C. psychiatrist and author of Bush On The Couch: Inside The Mind Of The President, told The National Enquirer: "I do think that Bush is drinking again. Alcoholics who are not in any program, like the President, have a hard time when stress gets to be great.

"I think it's a concern that Bush disappears during times of stress. He spends so much time on his ranch. It's very frightening."

Wednesday, September 21


When George Bush (or, for that matter, any member of the American Taliban) gets an idea into his head, there's just no convincing him that he's wrong, no matter how much evidence is amassed. The problem is, when you use an entire great nation as your personal social laboratory and the results of your experiments are unsatisfactory, real live people suffer the consequences.

That the Federal Emergency Management Agency mismanaged the Hurricane Katrina relief effort is old news. But there's more to FEMA's failure than simple bungling. The Bush administration's core belief that faith-based organizations can do the job better than the government or experienced nonprofits has compounded the problem.

Immediately after the hurricane, there were only two secular organizations to which FEMA's Web site urged that contributions be made; all the others were faith-based. What's worse, in at least some instances, FEMA relied on faith-based charities to spearhead the emergency-relief effort, regardless of whether they had expertise.
[Note: since when has Bush been bothered by lack of experience or expertise? The fool seems to believe the "divine right of kings" is his -- and claims a divine protection and blessings of success on all his decisions. That's some trick -- it allows the intellectually lazy Bush to avoid the "hard work" of the presidency.] Case in point: Tulsa, Okla." [Hat tip to Existential Ramble.]

As with so many of their undertakings, the Bushies are anxious to "prove" their success, and they don't mind fudging or spinning the facts to do so.

I'm cynical enough about this administration and the "religious right" to believe that the real motivations for the movement to use government/taxpayer funds to support faith-based social services are to promote religious conversions and to defund and destroy local, state and federal social services networks -- to get government out of the business of helping the poor and needy.

There are other, dangerous implications of the movement:

Ultimately, public funding of faith-based institutions is one of those rare proposals that harms virtually everyone affected by it. The initiative promotes publicly funded employment discrimination, it threatens the religious liberties of beneficiaries, it jeopardizes the freedom of our faith communities and it undermines the rights of all taxpayers.

Dubya has exposed this nation to so many dangers, follies and disasters, it is no wonder that so many progressives experience bouts of sheer despair -- not simply for ourselves, but for our nation and for future generations. I am a "person of faith" -- a believing Christian, in fact. But anyone who has read the Bible from cover to cover, as I have several times, cannot fail to note that from the beginning to the end God warns his children not to confuse religion with government. "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." It is curious that the American Taliban, who are so anxious to make Biblical law the law of the nation, don't exhibit much faith in its teachings.


Even some conservatives are bewildered (and some amused) at Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller making evidence-gathering against the purveyors of adult pornography one of their "top priorities."

But Gonzales endorses the rationale of predecessor Meese: that adult pornography is a threat to families. Christian conservatives, long skeptical of Gonzales, greeted the pornography initiative with what the Family Research Council called "a growing sense of confidence in our new attorney general."

Sounds like Alberto recognizes that he needs to woo the Christian right if he wants to become the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.

WaPo reported in July that "...a Gonzales nomination to the Supreme Court would likely face opposition from conservative Republicans who dislike his previous positions on such issues as abortion and affirmative action."

Darrell Ankarlo asked on his "Ankarlo Mornings" radio talk show this morning, "What were they [the FBI] thinking?" Even Ankarlo sees much greater needs for the FBI than to be running around investigating consenting adult (i.e., not kiddie) porn. It's clear that it was the Attorney General who added porn to the priority list, and the FBI, which works for him, is just following orders. As to what Gonzales was thinking, I think it's pretty obvious.

He's thinking how good he would look in a black robe.


Have you seen this? Very interesting and plausible projection.

Hat tip to Sally.


From the beginning of his presidency, Bush Jr. and the Rethugs have argued that Clinton's deal with the North Koreans was an "exercise in appeasement." Dubya likes to sling around the ol' tough-cowboy rhetoric, and he didn't spare Kim Jong-il any of it. In the 2004 presidential debates, John Kerry pointed out that as long as Clinton was president we had cameras in the reactors and we knew where the fuel rods were. Bush refused to talk to North Korea for two years after he became president, and during that time the cameras came out and Kim had the opportunity to build up his weapons program.

Now, though, it appears that the Bush administration is negotiating a deal similar to Clinton's. It's the right move, but don't you know it's just KILLING Dick Cheney to have anyone draw similarities between any aspect of his foreign policy and that of He-Who-Is-The-Root-of-All-Evil (better known to us as The Big Dog). From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Perhaps most important, though, a number of experts said, was that the Bush administration abandoned its hard-line position toward the insular communist government in Pyongyang and took several steps it had long refused to consider.

The White House said it was prepared to normalize relations with a government the president had earlier condemned as a member of "the axis of evil"; it agreed to consider construction of a civilian power reactor in North Korea; and it dropped its earlier insistence that North Korea had to completely dismantle its nuclear program before the United States would offer any economic aid or other benefits.
In 1994, the Clinton administration signed what was called the Agreed Framework, a deal that promised to provide North Korea with fuel oil, food assistance and, eventually, two civilian power reactors in return for a halt to its weapons activities.

That arrangement was produced under intense pressure; the Clinton administration was so worried about the weapons program that, officials have said, it drew up preliminary plans for a military strike against North Korea.

With the deal, tensions eventually cooled. But then the arrangement collapsed in acrimony early in the Bush administration, with each side claiming the other had reneged.


It's painful to consider our Democratic 2004 presidential running-mates and think just how much better off we'd all be if they'd beaten Bush/Cheney.

Kerry and Edwards say Bush's Actions Have Been a Disaster. (The Chimpster just opens himself right up to it, doesn't he? Like, George Bush is a Natural Disaster. And Weapons of Mass Deception. "No Millionaire Left Behind." Oh to have a prez who makes jokes instead of being one.

The crisis caused by the hurricane, Kerry said, exposed a "pattern of incompetence and negligence" in the Bush administration, as well as "a truly systemic effort to distort and disable the people's government, and devote it to the interests of the privileged and the powerful."
Edwards portrayed the suffering among those left behind in New Orleans as a metaphor for the struggles of poor families across America.

Edwards, who last year spoke often about disparities between the "two Americas" of affluence and need, on Monday promoted elements of what he called a "Working Society."

For New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, he proposed a modern version of the Works Progress Administration that President Franklin D. Roosevelt devised to create jobs during the Great Depression.

Edwards' agenda also included an increase in the nationwide minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.50 an hour...
Kerry said the recovery agenda for the region that Bush announced last week "turns the region into a vast laboratory for right-wing ideological experiments," such as waiving requirements that federal contractors pay prevailing wages during the cleanup.

Second, he said the hurricane should show Americans the need to take collective action through the government to attack entrenched problems, such as persistent poverty and lack of access to healthcare.

"It's time we framed every question — every issue — not in terms of what's in it for 'me,' but what's in it for all of us," Kerry said.


And for a White House so desperate to build public confidence in its ability to respond to the Gulf Coast disaster, it doesn't exactly help that the man who up until Friday was overseeing contracting policy for the multi-billion dollar relief effort has now been charged with lying and obstructing a criminal investigation.

"His wife, Jennifer Safavian, is chief counsel for oversight and investigations on the House Government Reform Committee, which is responsible for overseeing government procurement and is, among other things, expected to conduct the Congressional investigation into missteps after Hurricane Katrina."

I just love good irony.

Dan Froomkin here.

Monday, September 19


On Schedule
OK, it's one anecdotal example, but hey if this is true then it's Right On Schedule, and As Expected

I'm listening to WWL-AM in New Orleans. They have thus far received several calls from local contractors who say that FEMA is not allowing them to help with the recovery effort, that only out-of-state contractors are on the ground. One guy reports that the only way he can get hired as a subcontractor is to give a kickback to the contractor hired by FEMA.
In other words, as predicted, the recovery effort appears to be being conducted to benefit Bush campaign contributors, rather than the people of the area. But then, why should we be surprised? Everything about the Bush Administration has been calculated to enrich Bush cronies at the expense of the American people...

Hurricane Katrina, the solution to a Rove(ing) problem: Government Contractors not making enough off of Iraq and their Tax Breaks.

Hat tip to Democratic Veteran.

Tut, tut. If true, it sounds as if FEMA is breaking the law. I'm shocked, shocked I tell you!



Sec. 307. In the expenditure of Federal funds for debris clearance, distribution of supplies, reconstruction, and other major disaster or emergency assistance activities which may be carried out by contract or agreement with private organizations, firms, or individuals, preference shall be given, to the extent feasible and practicable, to those organizations, firms, and individuals residing or doing business primarily in the area affected by such disaster or emergency. This section shall not be considered to restrict the use of Department of Defense resources in the provision of major disaster assistance under this Act.


Because I've heard it cited relative to the Hurricane Katrina situation several times over the past few days, I've been looking at the Stafford Act, and have found several interesting provisions. I'll be examining it in more detail later.

Most notably, it appears that after a governor requests a declaration of state of emergency (which Louisiana Governor Blanco did on August 27, before Katrina struck), the president is authorized to do just about anything he deems necessary to save lives and property. Read the language -- "the president" appears in every other sentence. In fact, the Act seems to have been written to spell out just what the president could, and should, do in such a case.

Makes real clear just who has ultimate authority, and responsibility, for catastrophic disaster assistance. And it ain't the Secretary of Homeland Security, the FEMA director, or the mayor or governor. It's the president. And unless I've missed something, there's only one, and his name is George W. Bush.

Sunday, September 18


This post by moderate Republican, former Texas judge, and correspondent for Court TV Catherine Crier should be disseminated everywhere possible. I heard Crier on Dallas radio last week and just recently got hold of a copy of her book. This article is a good taste.

This is scary, scary stuff, folks. And it's happening, and many of us know it. The trick is getting the sleepers to pay attention.

CONTEMPT -- How The Right Is Wronging American Justice is the title of my new book that hits the shelves on Tuesday. In the wake of the Terri Schiavo debacle and the outrageous attack on the nation's jurists, I wanted to write a book in defense of the federal court system and its judges and to explain how, though imperfect, the system has evolved very much as the founders intended.

But I don't want that anymore.

Now I want this book to be a wake-up call, a warning flare, a political grenade that provokes the silent majority of this country to stand up and take notice of the attempted coup that is underway in the country.
Most of them would like to see the United States under biblical law. Comparable to countries like Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, all of which live by Sharia (the strict Islamic code of the Koran), America's right-wing fundamentalists seek a nation governed by Old and New Testament scripture. Born-again Christianity will supplant the Constitution.
They do not make a secret of it. What's more, they demand that all Americans adhere to their rigid and reactionary beliefs.

The Far Right wants to control our federal judiciary in order to enact this reactionary agenda. At first blush, the focus seems to center on social issues—abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, and religion in schools. These items certainly garner the most press attention, but don't be fooled.
Economic and political issues are crucial to them as well. If they are successful in our federal courts, this plot will have a profound impact on citizens in every arena. They are making efforts to curtail federal regulation of businesses, environmental protections, worker's rights, bankruptcy laws, tort liability, and property interests, among other causes.
Edwin Meese began arguing in the 1980s that the Bill of Rights does not apply to the states, and now the extreme Right supports his assertion that such Constitutional protections only exist to inhibit action by the national government. They want our individual guarantees surrendered back to the states, where enforcement will diminish and maybe disappear altogether.
And through it all, they camouflage these issues under a shiny veneer of values, morality, and religion.

Should the nation have minimum wage laws? Should corporations be held responsible when they commit serious wrongs? Should our environment, the air and water, be protected from polluters large and small? Should the Bill of Rights apply to all of the states, or should we have fifty different fiefdoms wherein a simple majority of state legislators can decide our fates?

For the first time since the early twentieth century, these items are actually in play.
For all of those Americans who believe that our democracy is safe, you are wrong. Today, the radical Right is winning, and they know it. Sooner rather than later, we may be living in a very different country, a country that had been ours, a country that will be theirs.


Tony Blair has been hanging around with George W. Bush just too too much. Dubya's worst qualities seem to have rubbed off on the British Prime Minister. Stories from a recently published diary kept by a former Downing Street press aide, have Blair sounding eerily similar to our own Chimpster.

An explosive political row erupted last night after Downing Street tried to censor a book by one of Tony Blair's most senior former aides, revealing shocking details of how the Prime Minister runs the country.

Ex-No 10 spin doctor Lance Price has enraged Mr Blair by publishing the first-ever first-hand account of the inner workings of New Labour.

And he has defied the Cabinet Secretary's attempts to prevent the publication of his devastating memoirs, The Spin Doctor's Diary, serialised in The Mail on Sunday today.

They give a blow-by-blow account of endless backbiting, tantrums and rows between senior Ministers and officials and lay bare the cynicism of Blair's team.
Astonishingly, Downing Street hit back last night by launching a campaign to smear Price, who remains a staunch New Labour supporter.

One senior civil servant told The Mail on Sunday: "Officials in No10 met last week and decided to go for Price's jugular by claiming he is a liar and fantasist. They know he isn't, but they have read the book and are horrified at what people will think."

In a bitter irony, the dirty tricks targeted at Price are almost identical to those he exposes in his book.
More details here.

So what's changed Tony Boy in the past four years? His position as Bush's poodle.

Former UK Minister for International Development (she resigned over the Iraq war) Clare Short's book, Honorable Deception, "is a forensic dissection of Tony Blair's leadership style, his folly over Iraq and his enormous propensity for spin. That's telling lies, to you and me." Sound like anyone we know?

During the Clinton administration, he and Blair had a "warm, mutually supportive relationship." Then came Dubya.

Four years of tagging after Bush, Blair, who has long pushed for "a binding international treaty on climate change," one part of the Eurolefty agenda he has traditionally kept faith with, "plugged the plug" on the Kyoto Treaty at the recent Clinton Global Initiative summit. "Blair, a longtime supporter of the Kyoto treaty, further prefaced his remarks by noting, 'My thinking has changed in the past three or four years. So what does he think now? 'No country,' he declared, 'is going to cut its growth.' That is, no country is going to allow the Kyoto treaty, or any other such global-warming treaty, to crimp -- some say cripple -- its economy."

Indeed, the widely held view was that Blair would "cash in" his geopolitical chits -- that is, those he gained with George W. Bush over his support for the Iraq war, in order to get the Texan to sign on to some form of Kyoto. But even before the Gleneagles G-8 summit in July, it seemed pretty clear that Bush was not going to go along with Blair's deal; in fact, Bush rebuffed Blair.

After the election of Mr Bush, Downing Street aides were anxious to maintain the "special relationship" between the US and the UK. Private polling for No 10 during the build-up to war showed hostility towards Mr Bush among British voters and Labour MPs, who disliked his language and manner.

Blair has paid, and is still paying, for his mistaken embrace of Bush.

Too bad Tony didn't take a leaf from the Hugh Grant book of Prime Ministership in the film Love Actually:

Press Conference Reporter: Mr. President, has it been a good visit?

The President: Very satisfactory indeed. We got what we came for and our special relationship is still very special.
Press Conference Reporter: Prime Minister?

Prime Minister: I love that word "relationship". Covers all manner of sins, doesn't it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to, erm... Britain. We may be a small country but we're a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham's right foot. David Beckham's left foot, come to that. And a friend who bullies us is no longer a friend. And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward, I will be prepared to be much stronger. And the President should be prepared for that.


The prime suspects, the editorial boards of the NY Times and WaPo are split on whether or not John Roberts should be confirmed as Chief Justice of the U.S.:

NYTimes editorial:

If he is confirmed, we think there is a chance Mr. Roberts could be a superb chief justice. But it is a risk. We might be reluctant to roll the dice even for a nomination for associate justice, but for a nomination for a chief justice - particularly one who could serve 30 or more years - the stakes are simply too high. Senators should vote against Mr. Roberts not because they know he does not have the qualities to be an excellent chief justice, but because he has not met the very heavy burden of proving that he does.

WaPo editorial:

Mr. Bush deserves credit for making a nomination that, on the merits, warrants support from across the political spectrum. Having done their duty by asking Judge Roberts tough questions, Democrats should not respond by withholding that support.

WaPo isn't enthusiastic, exactly. They just think Roberts is as good a candidate as we're likely to get from Bush. They caution that Roberts is likely to rule in ways the editorial board might oppose: he's a strong supporter of presidential powers and congressional authority over the states and weak on civil liberties, affirmative action, and civil rights. They believe it's possible that he, like Rehnquist, will favor overturning Roe v. Wade. As they note, "These are all risks, but they are risks the public incurred in reelecting President Bush."

I personally haven't commented much on the Roberts issue. Perhaps it's because lately my intuition has been running amok, and I've been afraid to trust it. At first I was absolutely opposed to the man, horrified by his record in the '80's and convinced that his privileged life, isolated from the real challenges that ordinary people face every day, would result in his ruling by ideology and theory rather than by wisdom and understanding.

But now I have this weird feeling that Roberts is going to surprise his conservative sponsors and make it a point of honor to rule as a justice should: on the constitutional merits of the individual case. I have a sneaking suspicion that once independent of any political considerations or control, he may turn out to be a David Souter or a Sandra Day O'Connor, and that's about as good as we liberals could possibly hope for from this president. I don't know what it is about him, I really don't, but during the hearings I got the feeling (and I had it for quite some time before the hearings, perhaps even since I read about his pro bono work for the gay community) that he's just as cautious about revealing his true intentions to the ultra conservatives as he is to liberals.

But then, my intuition told me that Jeff Bowden would be fired as the offensive coordinator for my Florida State Seminoles last year, and he's still there.


What a great way to start a week. Here I am at the office, waiting to issue a company press release (can we say "Sunday dump?"). The senior executives are continuing to tweak it, so let's see what's in the news today.

Oh my. Frank Rich continues to be red-hot.

Like his father before him, Mr. Bush has squandered the huge store of political capital he won in a war. His Thursday-night invocation of "armies of compassion" will prove as worthless as the "thousand points of light" that the first President Bush bestowed upon the poor from on high in New Orleans (at the Superdome, during the 1988 G.O.P. convention). It will be up to other Republicans in Washington to cut through the empty words and image-mongering to demand effective action from Mr. Bush on the Gulf Coast and in Iraq, if only because their own political lives are at stake. It's up to Democrats, though they show scant signs of realizing it, to step into the vacuum and propose an alternative to a fiscally disastrous conservatism that prizes pork over compassion. If the era of Great Society big government is over, the era of big government for special interests is proving a fiasco. Especially when it's presided over by a self-styled C.E.O. with a consistent three-decade record of running private and public enterprises alike into a ditch.

What comes next? Having turned the page on Mr. Bush, the country hungers for a vision that is something other than either liberal boilerplate or Rovian stagecraft. At this point, merely plain old competence, integrity and heart might do.

I wonder if John Kerry just might stand a chance in 2008. Up till recently I didn't think it was a possibility. But perhaps now the country would be ready to admit it made a mistake in 2004. His "skeletons" have been pretty well exploited to their maximum potential by the Rethugs and put to rest, while other Dems would just be fresh meat. Just a thought.