So.... What's Your Take?

In the last few days, we have:

Tom DeLay indicted and the right strangely taking the position that it's fine, no biggie

A new top Supreme (not quite Diana Ross' hair but... )

Judith Miller out of jail (God save us all)

The president insisting we can pay for Katrina while cutting more ultra-rich taxes and taking the unusual measure (for him) of suggesting fuel conservation.... WHILE he traipses all over making silly trips for photo ops

More talk that either Iraq is already in a civil war or that we have, quite assuredly, already lost the war and we're trying very hard to conceal it

So... jump in. What's on your list of biggies this week? How do you feel about these?


Finally back.

Sorry for the unplanned hiatus. First it was work. Then a microburst tornado struck here Thursday morning - really cool to watch but all the big trees it sheered in half are still being pulled off the house. No phone or power - or working toilets or coffee or sanity either - until sometime last night. But when I went to Blogger, it seemed to be permanently down for maintenance. Same thing this morning but I switched to Firefox and got in.

Gee, a girl doesn't post for a few days and everything goes nuts.


"Celebrating" the Mengeles' of Freedom

The General is writing letters again:

John Hinderaker
Powerline Blog

Dear Mr. Hinderaker,
Your work turning the Gitmo atrocities into a rallying point for those of us who support the use of torture and abuse in the defense of freedom was admirable.

I particularly enjoyed your "I ♥ Gitmo" tees--it must be very satisfying to earn a little extra money turning the misery of others into comedy fodder.

We need you to do it again. Human Rights Watch released a report on Friday which documents more incidents of abuse and torture, this time by the 82nd Airborne in Iraq. According to one 82nd Airborne officer, it's now official US policy to beat "PUCs," or Persons Under Control with baseball bats and to apply caustic chemicals to their eyes and other body parts.

The practitioners of these freedom-building activities, or as I like to call them, the Mengeles of Freedom, call it "Fucking the PUC." They also starve the prisoners and force them to hold stress positions for hours on end--they call that "Smoking the PUC."

Fucking PUCs. Smoking PUCs. I love our new military argot. It brings a little extra enjoyment to those of us who fight the War for Iraqi Freedom with a mouse and a cheeto-stained keyboard.It won't be long before the domestic enemies of freedom begin to decry PUC fucking in the same way they attacked the democracy-building activities at Gitmo.

We need to seize the meme quickly to prevent that from happening. I'm thinking that tees with something like "I ♥ to fuck PUCs" or "Fuck a PUC for Freedom" would do the trick. We could also do a "Fuck a PUC for Jesus" for the Dobson crowd, although they already dig torture and may not need encouragement.

Who in His or Her Right Mind Would Want Rumsfeld

in charge of US disasters? Isn't Iraq disaster and endless misery enough?

"Government by Temper Tantrum"

It's by Molly Ivins and it's spectacular.

So here are all the liberals going into a giant snit just because George W. Bush appointed a veterinarian to head the women's health section of the Food and Drug Administration. For Pete's sake, you whiners, the only reason he chose the vet is because Michael Brown wasn't available.

If you recall, Ol' Heckuva-Job Brownie had to go home, walk his dog and then hug his wife after exhausting himself in his triumphal handling of Hurricane Katrina. Otherwise, he'd have been Bush's first pick.

Now, even the veterinarian doesn't get the job -- just because those professional feminists raised such a stink. What's wrong with a vet? They know a lot about birth and udders and stuff. If the mother is having trouble giving birth, you grab the baby by the legs and pull it out -- it's not brain surgery. Then you worm 'em, you tag 'em and you spray for fleas. Why the fuss?

The only reason Bush even needed a new head of the Office of Women's Health is because the last one, Susan Wood, quit. She was upset because the political hacks who run the agency refused to allow over-the-counter sale of the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B.

Frist's "Political Future Darkens"

Excuse me while I shed a tear.

From Bloomberg:

Sept. 26 (Bloomberg) -- At the start of this year, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was looking at a bright political future. He led his party to an expanded majority in the Senate in November and emerged as a leading Republican hopeful for the 2008 presidential race.

Less than nine months later, that picture appears darker. Frist, 53, now faces inquiries into his stock sales by the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission that threaten to undermine him politically and provide Democrats fresh ammunition with which to question their opponents' ethics.

``If there is really any evidence of insider trading, then he's in very serious trouble, and so is his party,'' said Gary Jacobson, professor of political science at the University of California in San Diego. ``It adds another brick to Democrats' argument that Republicans are corrupt.''

Frist through his spokesmen has denied any wrongdoing in the sale of shares of HCA Inc. held in a blind trust earlier this year, one month before a weak earnings report sparked a drop in the company's stock. Nashville, Tennessee-based HCA, the biggest U.S. hospital chain, was founded by Frist's father and brother.

Frist's HCA stock holdings in one of his blind trusts surged more than 30-fold from 2000 to 2001, according to financial disclosure statements filed with the Senate. By the end of 2001 he reported owning $500,001 to $1 million in HCA shares within an entity called Bowling Avenue Partners, which was part of his blind trust. That holding had been valued at $1,001 to $15,000 at the end of 2000. The leap in valuation could not have been the result of changes in share price; in 2001 HCA shares fell 12.4 percent after gaining 50.3 percent in 2000.
Wow... even by Washington standards, that's SOME leap in stock value.

Michael Kinsley's Ouster at LA Times

Interesting piece from The Guardian.

How the Media Missed a Half Million Americans on Saturday

From the Detroit News blog:

Imagine 500,000 people marching down the meandering thoroughfares of Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street and Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC. They are headed for a date with destiny and the promise of peace, conjoined with a challenge for justice. How could they vanish from the headlines?

Rod Serling, the brilliant creator/writer of “The Twilight Zone,” might have written this intro to one of his teleplays during the 1960s. But it didn’t happen then. It happened this weekend, with our media, in our country, in our time.

“They came from as far away as Alaska and California,” reported Abayomi Azikiwe of the Pan African Newswire, “from Europe to the nation's capital itself, to make a clear statement that United States military forces should withdraw immediately from Iraq. Honest crowd estimates of the demonstration ranged from 500,000-600,000 (some even thought there were more) making it the largest demonstration in the capital since the winter of 2003.”

Journalist Azikiwe rode the bus with 200 Detroiters who attended this national anti-war march in Washington, DC and stood on the Mall with thousands who watched speakers ranging from the Rev. Jesse Jackson to Cindy Sheehan to activist Curtis Muhammad from New Orleans. He provided a full report on this historic event.

But the corporate media was nowhere to be found. The demonstration was lost on CNN. It was buried on MSNBC. It barely escaped a muffle on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and the old, reliable NPR (National Public Radio). If you had been watching C-SPAN, you would have seen the speakers (but not the march), but how many people watches C-SPAN?

The media failed to cover the largest antiwar demonstration in America since the Vietnam era. That’s not happening in “The Twilight Zone.” That is reality today.

Where were they? Covering local news at home? In Iraq? Or covering the Ashton Kucher/Demi Moore wedding?

No. They had a date with Rita. Celeb anchorpersons, clad in Tommy Hilfiger and St. John knits, were standing in knee-deep water as a backdrop. How many stories about Rita did we need? It’s a tragedy, of course, but in Washington, a challenge to the Bush administration was in full gear, and the cameras, recorders, and reporters’ notepads were missing. If it wasn’t real, it would be science fiction.

The President Suggests Fuel Savings....

Now imagine how many tons of gas we'd save if he'd stop be-bopping all around Texas and Louisiana pretending he's in charge of more than photo ops.

Meanwhile, we put former FEMA head Michael Brown back on the payroll, probably for such a job well done. Brown did, after all, blame the entire NOLA mess on the LA Dem woman governor rather Bush, doing everything but suggesting her "monthly woman problems" interfered with her ability to serve.

Some Sad Truths About the Most Recent Hurricane Hit

Again and again the last few days, I've heard folks- particularly Texans - remarking to news crews, "Everyone hurried in to help those folks in New Orleans. Well, let's see what they do for us. We're the tax and bill payers and the backbone of this country. Let's see if they do as well by us as they did by those (and there's always been a hint of something they're holding back about who the affected were in Katrina vs Rita) before us."

First, I didn't see a lot of Katrina folks having a great time. In fact, the only folks having a good time are people like Bush's pal Joe Allbaugh who's set to make a mint off the disaster as well as Ol Miss governor Haley Barbour, friend of the KKKCCC that he is - Barbour I hear has just procured a huge no bid contract for debris removal for his private company. Halliburton and Bechtel are making out, too.

Yet the anger for some of these folks isn't the fat cats that their boy George has done so well by; instead, some Texans feel angry that "Nobody's here dropping us TVs and debit cards and checks and foods like Katrina victims" I heard today, suggesting that the poor blacks of Katrina got a festival and a parade.

However Hurricane Rita plays out - and it certainly did enough damage - nobody's talking about "not rebuilding Texas" as they are with low income Nola. But regardless, it's going to increase the red-blue divide; the Texas sense among those political players who espouse the belief that they have to screw everybody a little harder because they don't get treated well on their own.

Listen to poor ol Tom DeLay, and you'd swear that chucklehead has never had a nickel he didn't have to mint himself. DeLay, the multi millionaire bugman who controls what we still mistakenly call a democracy.

Texas has a lot of decent people, but it's got way too many DeLays, too. And they're going to be milking Rita and fat cat contracts and such for every cent they can while they sneer at the rest of us for letting them get away with it.


Apparently Nothing More Dangerous to National Security

than a 48-year-old high school educated grief-stricken Bush-Does-Iraq-2 Gold Star mother sitting down on the pavement of a building we bought, built, and pay for daily while George Bush shits on it, on the dead, on the living, and on the American flag on an hourly basis.

I don't happen to agree with absolutely everything Cindy Sheehan says. But that doesn't matter.

She gave her son. She has a right to ask for proof why it was necessary.

Every American has both the right AND the obligation to ask for that same proof. But the families of those who have died also have the right to feel like they're owed twice over.


Good 'Ol George Bush: Trying to Link Hurricane Disasters to Terrorism

From Maureen Dowd posted at ToppleBush:

Stormy was testy.

He had put aside the guitar and packed his slicker.

The First Weatherman was working hard, man, harder than he had in years, even spending nights away from home - and Barney - in strange places.

And still the pesky press was painting him as a storm groupie, racing Rita to Texas just to score a windswept backdrop to recapture his image as protector.

Stormy preened for the cameras at FEEBLE FEMA headquarters in Washington yesterday. On CNN, a bilious image of a hurricane spun next to his head. You could imagine the little hurricane trailing him through the rest of his presidency, like the storm cloud with a lightning bolt that always trailed Joe Btfsplk in "Li'l Abner."

He said he was jetting to San Antonio to check out "the prepositioned assets" and then riding out the storm watching "the interface" between the military and state and local authorities at Northcom in Colorado.

But David Gregory at NBC quizzed W. on what good he could really do in Texas: "Might you get in the way, Mr. President?"

Stormy didn't like that. "One thing I won't do is get in the way," he snipped.

Mr. Gregory, part of a newly amped-up press corps, followed up: "Isn't there a risk of you and your entourage getting in the way?"

Now Stormy let off a little high pressure. "There will be no risk of me getting in the way, I promise you," he said dismissively.

The smart aleck reporters didn't understand how crucial it was for the president to intertwine, inter alia, with the interfacers. So W. explained it again: "See, Northcom is the main entity that interfaces - that uses federal assets, federal troops, to interface with local and state government. I want to watch that relationship."

But soon the San Antonio leg of the trip was scotched amid fears that Stormy would really be interfering more than interfacing. And besides, the weather was too sunny there for poses in foul-weather gear.

Stormy is like his dad, Desert Stormy. They both love wardrobe calls: cool costumes, sports outfits, presidential windbreakers, "Top Gun" get-ups, weather gear.

But leadership is not a series of costume changes. The former Andover cheerleader has been too reliant on photo-ops, drop-bys and "Mission Accomplished" strut-bys, rather than a font of personal knowledge.

What Katrina exposed was a president who - remarkable as this may sound - seemed bored after his re-election, just as Bill Clinton had drifted after his re-election. Before the Monica scandal broke, Mr. Clinton's aides had to beg him to call lawmakers on the Hill to support his own legislative agenda.

Before the Katrina scandal, W. had lethargically wandered the country, lifelessly promoting his Social Security plan and an energy bill that did nothing to solve the energy crisis, and endlessly vacationing in Crawford.

He campaigned as a strong daddy who would keep us safe, but then seemed lost when his daddy figure, Dick Cheney, kept vacationing as Katrina exposed a grotesque rescue apartheid in New Orleans.

The more tuned-in W. is now, the more obvious it is that he tuned out as New Orleans drowned. There is a high cost for presidential learning curves.

Hundreds of thousands of people died in Bosnia before Bill Clinton got it right in Kosovo. A lot of elderly hospital and nursing home patients died in New Orleans before W. could pay attention to Houston and Galveston.

On Wednesday, Stormy tried to make one of his strained linkages, this time with Katrina and terror. The terrorists, he said, were "the kind of people who look at Katrina and wish they had caused it," while he is the kind of person who looks at Katrina and tries to energize himself to deal with natural disasters by thinking, What if this had been done by terrorists?

On Thursday, he tried to move past the image he had projected of a lost boy wandering alone in the storm, and stood at the Pentagon flanked by his war council, talking about how he was moving to "develop a secure, safe democracy in Iraq." Unfortunately, the Saudi foreign minister was in town dropping a bomblet by saying that Iraq was going down the tubes, a judgment other Sunni Arab leaders had been conveying privately.

After his Pentagon remarks, W. looked at his vice president for approval and received a proud, avuncular smile that said, "You're the Man."

But before he chases any more wind tunnels, Stormy should heed the Bob Dylan line: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

The Smell of Moral Decay Wafting from Bill Frist is Overpowering

From the Sun Times:

Blind trusts are designed to keep an arm's-length distance between federal officials and their investments, to avoid conflicts of interest. But documents show that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist knew quite a bit about his accounts from nearly two dozen letters from the trust administrators.

Frist (R-Tenn.) received regular updates of transfers of assets to his blind trusts and sales of assets. He also was able to initiate a stock sale of a hospital chain founded by his family with perfect timing. Shortly after the sale this summer, the stock price dived.

A possible presidential contender in 2008, Frist faces dual investigations by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission into his stock sales.

Sheldon Cohen, who was the trustee for Democrat Walter Mondale's blind trust when he was vice president and drafted Democrat Lyndon Johnson's blind trust for Johnson's presidency, said that in the executive branch, ''you don't tell them how it's composed.'' He said Frist, like any federal official, ''absolves himself of conflict by not knowing what he owns.''

Cohen said that when Mondale left office, he told Cohen to sell his assets. ''He had no idea what I was holding,'' the Washington attorney and former Internal Revenue Service commissioner said.
Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said the senator received approval from the Senate Ethics Committee before he initiated the stock sale. All of the information Frist received complied with federal law and Senate ethics rules, Stevenson said.

GOP Sees Post-Katrina ReBuilding as a Wave to Pave Their Agenda

Think more tax cuts for the rich. Think school vouchers. Think even less privacy.

From the Boston Globe:

Republican lawmakers in Congress have tried repeatedly in recent years to allow children to use federally funded vouchers to attend private schools. They have been defeated seven times since 1998.

At least nine times in the past decade, Republicans sought to repeal or undermine a Depression-era law that requires federal contractors to pay the ''prevailing wage" in the region they are working in. None of the efforts succeeded.

But now the GOP is poised to realize both of those goals. President Bush's reconstruction package for the Gulf Coast region devastated by Hurricane Katrina includes nearly $500 million for vouchers that children can use at private schools anywhere in the nation. And Bush declared a ''national emergency" to waive the prevailing wage law during the cleanup, freeing contractors to pay construction workers as little as the minimum wage, rather than the $8 to $10 prevailing wages in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.

As the federal government's response to Katrina takes shape, the White House and Congress are enacting or seeking to pass a wide range of policies that have been consistently rejected by Congress, despite Republican majorities in the House and Senate. The Bush administration has lifted the requirement that contractors have affirmative-action plans, is seeking to weaken clean-air standards in the Gulf region, and has shelved rules governing the number of hours truckers can work. Republicans in Congress have proposed allowing the EPA to waive all environmental regulations during the rebuilding.

Republicans say the moves are intended to help the region rebuild as fast as possible. Moreover, with as much as $200 billion headed to the states hit by Katrina, the White House and Congress want to be sure that the money is spent in accordance with conservative principles, emphasizing the free market and the strength of the private sector, said Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the Senate's third-ranking Republican.

''The conditions that people were living in I would argue were a result of liberal policies," Santorum said. ''And now we've got some alternative ideas -- give us an opportunity to try to positively impact the lives of the poor in these communities. . . . Let's try something different that may work, because what has been tried in the past hasn't worked."

But Democrats contend that Republicans are using a national tragedy to slip in proposals they have not been able to achieve through the legislative process during normal times.

Ed & Pub: FEMA Learned Nothing From Katrina in Helping Texas


NEW YORK In Beaumont, Texas, claims that federal relief agencies learned their lessons from Hurricane Katrina and are on the ball in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita are apparently ringing hollow.

The Beaumont (Tex.) Enterprise reported tonight that disaster response coordinators in the area hard hit by Rita say they are seeing the same foot-dragging federal response this weekend witnessed two weeks ago in New Orleans and Mississippi. Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith and other local leaders, "haggard after days of almost non-stop work with little sleep, pleaded with the federal government to get itself in a higher gear," the paper said. Griffith said he wanted to return services to residents who remain but that "it seems like they can't figure out how to get it done." "There's a drastic shortage of generators in Beaumont to provide emergency power," Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said. "There are generators at Ford Park, and FEMA is withholding their release. They want to finish their damage assessment." Jefferson County officials had a plan to distribute Meals-Ready-to-Eat from local fire stations, the paper said. However, Griffith said the MREs, like the generators, were being withheld by FEMA. "They won't let us have them," Griffith said. "They said we had to go through the state - which we already did - to get them. I'm going over there (to Ford Park) now to figure this out."

Looters have struck in town, but had to be let go because there is no safe place to jail them right now. Officials have asked FEMA to provide temporary jail quarters.The Enterprise has not published a print edition this weekend but provided PDFs of a scaled-down version on its still-active Web site. It included a note there Sunday: "We will publish a home edition as soon as we possibly can."Griffith said he's sending fire officials to local stores to get supplies, including propane to cook with. "We're going into stores and taking food out," Griffith said. "We're going to do what we got to do to get the job done...."

There's just a breakdown in the state and federal government that you saw in Katrina and you've seen in other disasters," Griffith said. He said he hopes to see a change "so at least the next people that have to go through it ... will have some kind of process that makes sense that can immediately deliver what people need."

No One Covered it But... Everywhere in America Yesterday (Saturday), People Marched Against Bush's War.

In DC alone, police are admitting at least 100K showed up, with only a tiny number of Bushie koolaid kiddies.

You Know Things are Bad in Iraq When Iraqis Wish They Were as Well Off as Katrina Survivors

I've wondered how Iraqis are taking our "misery". Ours were natural disasters while we created theirs.

From the wire service:

The Gulf of Mexico is 7,000 miles away, but Iraqis are worried about hurricanes Katrina and Rita: They fear the storms will divert U.S. money and attention from Iraq.

"Our hearts and our prayers are with the victims," Planning Minister Barham Saleh says. "But one should also keep in mind the importance of reconstruction in Iraq. You cannot leave Iraq alone, because failure is not an option here."

A USA TODAY/CNN Poll last week showed that a majority of Americans give the war effort a low priority compared to domestic needs. Asked for the best way to pay for Hurricane Katrina damage, 54% recommend cutting spending for the Iraq war.

The hurricanes come at a time when money for Iraq's reconstruction is running low. Congress approved $18.4 billion in 2003, but $5 billion was later set aside to rebuild Iraq's military and police.

Security costs are eating into the rest. Projects are being scaled back even though needs remain, James Jeffrey, a State Department adviser, recently told a congressional panel.

Gee, Imagine That!

The Stranger at Blah3 brings us something that will make most of us smily wryly while making others - say the Bushes and the DeLays and the Frists and the Hasterts and the Falwells and Robertsons - remind us they are neither evolved nor intelligently designed:

Of course, science is evil, so none of this will hold any sway with the Intelligent Design crowd.
    When scientists announced last month they had determined the exact order of all 3 billion bits of genetic code that go into making a chimpanzee, it was no surprise that the sequence was about 96 percent identical to the human genome. Charles Darwin had deduced more than a century ago that chimps were among humans' closest cousins.

    But decoding chimpanzees' DNA allowed scientists to do more than just refine their estimates of how similar humans and chimps are. It let them put the very theory of evolution to some tough new tests. If Darwin was right, for example, then scientists should be able to perform a neat trick. Using a mathematical formula that emerges from evolutionary theory, they should be able to predict the number of harmful mutations in chimpanzee DNA by knowing the number of mutations in a different species' DNA and the two animals' population sizes. "That's a very specific prediction," said Eric Lander, a geneticist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., and a leader in the chimp project.

    Sure enough, when Lander and his colleagues tallied the harmful mutations in the chimp genome, the number fit perfectly into the range that evolutionary theory had predicted.

Calling All Correntephiles....

For those of you who have not already noticed, Corrente the blog is now CorrenteWire available at this new, non-blogspot URL.

Open Thread

What's on your mind?

DeLay telling us the GOP has successfully cut ALL pork from the budget?

Frist's stock mess?

An opposition party that's more like a mild grumble party?

Why's Bush taking money from servicemen and women to pay for his failures with FEMA and NOLA?

The new PorkBuster campaign that wants to cut all funding to public broadcasting and worse?

How we'll never know how many died in NOLA?

Why we pay the Feds so much to protect us from disaster only to claim during disasters that it's the local first responders - the ones they refuse to equip or give support to - responsibility?

A new chief justice who seems to have a questionable pictorial history?

I mean, there's a shitload to discuss.

On a More Personal Note, However...

I know that about 10% of the folks who visit here each week come from the storm-affected states.

I hope you and yours are OK. I think I speak for most when I say that our hearts and pracyers are with you.

Katrina took enough lives and, sadly, far more than we'll ever know in official counts.