Friday, September 30, 2005

The Seattle Times: Politics: House approves major overhaul of Endangered Species Act
More feeding at the trough from the biggest government welfare recipients of all- the wealthy. This time they want to kill endangered species to do so.

WASHINGTON — The House yesterday approved a top-to-bottom overhaul of the landmark 1973 Endangered Species Act, perhaps the nation's most powerful environmental law.

By a vote of 229-193, lawmakers passed legislation that could greatly expand private-property rights under the environmental law that is credited with helping keep the bald eagle from extinction, but that has led to battles over species such as the spotted owl, the snail darter and the red-legged frog.

The White House supports the legislation, although it wants some changes. The Senate has not taken up companion legislation and is unlikely to accept such drastic revisions in the law, so compromises are likely if the bill is ever to become law.

The bill that passed would require the government to compensate property owners if steps needed to protect species thwarted development plans. It also would make political appointees responsible for some scientific determinations and would stop the government from designating areas as "critical habitat."

The changes were pushed through by the chairman of the House Resources Committee, Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif. The rancher contends the current rules unduly burden landowners and lead to costly lawsuits while doing too little to save plants and animals.

Many Democrats and moderate Republicans said Pombo's bill would eliminate important protections for species and clear the way for large government handouts to property owners.

The article goes on to say that, although the White House is for the destruction of endangered animals habitats, they don't feel comfortable paying out the money. Budget concerns, you see.

Yeah, buddy. Let's hope the Senate can make some sense of this.

And kudos to my (gulp) Republican rep, Vern Ehlers. He voted against this travesty.

There. I said something nice about a Republican. See? I can be reasonable when they are.
Michigan Democratic Party :DeVos and DeLay: Twin Pillars in the Republican Culture of Corruption
Well. Isn't this interesting.

LANSING-In light of yesterday's criminal indictment against House GOP Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) on a charge of conspiracy to illegally use soft money, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer reminded Michigan voters of the connection between DeLay and Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. Both Republicans have abused soft money political contributions and both have given each other thousands of dollars over the years to support their political ambitions.

"Republicans from Washington D.C. to Michigan continue to put politics before policy," said Brewer. "The report on DeVos' soft money and corporate tax loophole and Tom DeLay's indictment are the latest examples of what's become the Republican culture of corruption."

DeLay's soft money indictment comes as DeVos refuses to explain reports on the tax loophole inserted into the 1997 budget bill which benefited Amway nearly $300 million. Amway's tax giveaway occurred while Dick DeVos was president of the company and after Amway and the DeVos family had given millions of dollars in soft money to various Republican groups during the 1990's.

DeVos and his Political Action Committee (PAC), Restoring the American Dream have exchanged thousands of dollars with DeLay, his campaign committee and his PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority. DeVos gave the Tom DeLay Congressional Committee $1,000 in 2000 and gave DeLay's PAC $5,000 in 1999. DeLay's PAC in turn gave DeVos' PAC $5,000 over the course of two weeks in the fall of 2000.

Perhaps this needs to be investigated a bit further, yes? It's a loose connection, but, hey, it works for me. Glad to see the MDP get on the "culture of corruption" bandwagon.

Let's Googlebomb "culture of corruption", shall we?
Bennett: Black Abortions Would Lower Crime - Yahoo! News
Wow. I can't believe this guy actually said this.

WASHINGTON - The White House on Friday criticized former Education Secretary William Bennett for remarks linking the crime rate and the abortion of black babies.

Bennett, on his radio show, "Morning in America," was answering a caller's question when he took issue with the hypothesis put forth in a recent book that one reason crime is down is that abortion is up.

"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down," said Bennett, author of "The Book of Virtues."

He went on to call that "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

Responding later to criticism, Bennett said his comments had been mischaracterized and that his point was that the idea of supporting abortion to reduce crime was "morally reprehensible."

Bennett was education secretary under President Reagan and director of drug control policy when Bush's father was president.

I guess that's the standard defense now. "I was mischaracterized". "I was taken out of context". "It's a partisan witch hunt". Never, ever, ever take personal responsibility. That's the Republican way.
Conn. to Offer Civil Unions on Oct. 1 - Yahoo! News
Another civilized state heard from...

HARTFORD, Conn. - Connecticut joins Vermont on Saturday as the only states offering same-sex civil unions, but the day may pass with only a few raised glasses of champagne as the first gay couples exchange vows.

Because Oct. 1 falls on a Saturday, only a handful of town clerks' offices plan to be open. Gay rights activists know of some planned ceremonies that day — including one officiated by Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, who's running for governor — but don't know how many couples will race to apply for civil unions.

"Saturday is going to be a landmark day in the civil rights movement in Connecticut," said state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, one of a handful of openly gay legislators in Connecticut's General Assembly.

But the law is also creating confusion with some employers who will be required to extend health benefits to same-sex couples.

"I think employers are going to start getting requests (for benefits) as soon as Monday. And they're not prepared," said Bruce Barth, an employee benefits attorney at Robinson and Cole in Hartford.

Connecticut's law passed in April, making it the first state to recognize same-sex unions without court intervention. Laws in Vermont and Massachusetts, which allows gay couples to marry, were created as a result of legal action. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger followed through on his promise Thursday to veto a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

Connecticut will recognize Vermont's civil unions but officials are still researching other states' domestic partnership laws and civil unions granted in foreign countries. But it will not recognize same-sex marriages because its law specifies that marriage is between a man and a woman, a distinction that angers some couples.

Town clerks and justices of the peace spent the past few weeks learning the ins and outs of civil unions. The justices, who are not required to perform civil unions, have been encouraged to conclude civil union ceremonies by pronouncing couples "partners in life" rather than husband and wife. They were also reminded that heterosexual couples aren't eligible for civil unions.

The 2000 U.S. Census found about 7,400 same-sex couples in Connecticut, but there's no way to know how many might seek civil unions.

And so begins the clusterfuck that will be the law in this area. We do recognize Vermont, because it uses the word "civil union", we don't recognize Mass., or Canada, for that matter, because it uses the word "marriage". Someone call a lawyer, there's a suit waiting to happen. Also, why should heteros be denied a civil union? That's discrimination too.

But cheers to Connecticut for giving this a go!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

DeLay Must Appear in Austin on Charge - Yahoo! News
Pics and prints! I want those prints run through the computer. God knows what else 'ol Tom has been up to.

AUSTIN, Texas - The next step in the criminal proceedings against Republican leader Tom DeLay is a trip to Austin to be fingerprinted and photographed.

DeLay was indicted Wednesday on one count of criminal conspiracy for his alleged role in a campaign finance scheme that helped give Republicans power in the Texas House and in Congress.

DeLay's attorneys were working out the details of when the 11-term congressman would return to Texas in hopes of saving him from further embarrassment, they said.

"What we're trying to avoid is Ronnie Earle having him taken down in handcuffs, and fingerprinted and photographed. That's uncalled for and I don't think that's going to happen," said Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's attorney.

Earle, the Travis County district attorney, said it is up to the court to decide how DeLay would be arraigned.

It was not immediately clear whether DeLay would have to go through booking after responding to the summons for arraignment, said his attorney Bill White.

A bond amount would be set beforehand so Delay could immediately pay it and avoid a stay in jail. He also could waive going before a magistrate to have his rights and charges read to him, said Roger Wade, Travis County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

No bond! He's a flight risk! He might commit more crimes while he's out! Won't someone think of the safety of the community? What about the children???

Damn liberal judges.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Benefits ruled OK for gay workers' partners

Hours after a judge's ruling cleared the way, Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced Tuesday that she would move ahead on a proposal to extend health care benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.

Earlier Tuesday, Ingham County Judge Joyce Dragunchuk ruled that a 2004 voter-approved amendment to Michigan's Constitution defining marriage does not prohibit state and local governments, universities and schools from providing health care and other benefits to the gay and lesbian partners of employees.

Dragunchuk agreed with a coalition of interest groups, unions, universities and Granholm who argued that benefits provided to same-sex partners of public employees do not constitute recognition of a marriage or a marriagelike relationship.

The ruling was the first judicial interpretation of the amendment since voters approved Proposal 2 -- 59% to 41% -- in November. But it is likely not the last. Both sides in the case -- Attorney General Mike Cox argued against same-sex benefits -- are expected to appeal adverse rulings as far as legally possible.

A dozen public universities in Michigan offer benefits to same-sex couples along with at least that many other agencies, including cities and school districts. The actual number of couples who receive benefits is not available, but advocates estimate that fewer than 1% of employees in most workplaces would apply for the benefits.

Still, the issue has symbolic importance for those on both sides of the issue.

Granholm had suspended an agreement with state employees to add partner benefits after the 2004 election.

Representatives of the coalition and the 21 same-sex couples named in the lawsuit who receive or hope to receive benefits were jubilant Tuesday.

"We're very happy about it," said Kary Moss, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which represented the couples in the lawsuit.

Opponents of benefits for same-sex partners of public employees argue the amendment was intended to restrict recognition of marriage or marriagelike arrangements to opposite-sex couples and that health care benefits provided to a spouse should be barred.

Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan based in Midland, said it would have been surprising if Dragunchuk had not ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Two gay political actions groups endorsed her for election, he said.

"Judge Dragunchuk was strongly endorsed by homosexual activists," said Glenn, coauthor of the amendment and whose group initiated the amendment campaign.

"Waaaahhh!", says Gary Glenn. Man, I've heard SO much Republican whining today, my ears are ringing.
DeLay Indicted in Campaign Finance Probe - Yahoo! News
YEEEAAAAHHHHHHHHHH! Wooo- hoooooo! 'bout time.

WASHINGTON - A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, an indictment that could force him to step down as House majority leader.

DeLay attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee.

The indictment against the second-ranking, and most assertive Republican leader came on the final day of the grand jury's term. It followed earlier indictments of a state political action committee founded by DeLay and three of his political associates.

The grand jury action is expected to have immediate consequences in the House, where DeLay is largely responsible for winning passage of the Republican legislative program. House Republican Party rules require leaders who are indicted to temporarily step aside from their leadership posts.

Score one for the good guys!

Update: Reports say this is a two-year FELONY.

I like the way that sounds. Tom DeLay, convicted felon. Does Texas allow it's felons to vote?

Hee hee hee.
Chicago Cubs : News : Prior to start Cubs' final home game
Last chance to see Wrigley this year. It's on WGN, 2:20 EST.

Mark Prior will make his final start of the season in the Cubs' final home game on Wednesday against the Pirates.

The last time Prior faced the Bucs, on July 14, he struck out 10 batters and held Pittsburgh to one run -- unearned -- on two hits over eight innings.

The Cubs are 37-42 at Wrigley Field this year. Only once has the team has finished above .500 overall with a losing record at home. In 1995, the Cubs were 73-71 despite a 34-38 record at Wrigley Field.

Derrek Lee is trying to become the first Cub to win a National League batting title since Bill Buckner did so in 1980. The last Cub to finish in the top five in the batting race was Mark Grace, who hit .331, good for fifth in the NL in 1996.

The Cubs will wrap up their season at Houston in a four-game series starting Thursday. The Astros, leaders in the Wild Card race, have been cleared to host the series after Hurricane Rita spared the city from serious damage.
DeLay Probe Winds Down; Charges May Loom
Oh please oh please oh please pretty please. Make my day.

WASHINGTON -- A Texas grand jury's recent interest in conspiracy charges could lead to last-minute criminal indictments _ possibly against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay _ as it wraps up its investigation Wednesday into DeLay's state political organization, according to lawyers with knowledge of the case.

Conspiracy counts against two DeLay associates this month raised concerns with DeLay's lawyers, who fear the chances are greater that the majority leader could be charged with being part of the conspiracy. Before these counts, the investigation was more narrowly focused on the state election code.

By expanding the charges to include conspiracy, prosecutors made it possible for the Travis County grand jury to bring charges against DeLay. Otherwise, the grand jury would have lacked jurisdiction under state laws.

The Associated Press spoke to several lawyers familiar with the case, all of whom requested anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. DeLay, R-Texas, said Tuesday that prosecutors have interviewed him. He has insisted he committed no crimes and says Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, is pursuing the case for political reasons.

The disclosure came as congressional officials said top House Republicans were quietly considering how to respond if an indictment were issued.

House GOP rules require any member of the elected leadership to step down temporarily if indicted, and it would be up to the rank and file to select an interim replacement. Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., could make a recommendation, whether choosing to elevate another member of the leadership or tapping an alternative to reduce the possibility of a struggle if DeLay were cleared and then sought to reclaim his post.

I'm dreaming of a special jail built just to hold Tom, Bill, George, Dick, Karl....and Lynndie England with a bunch of new leashes...
Brown Shifts Blame for Katrina Response - Yahoo! News
This little twit needs to be strung up by his thumbs and left without water and food for a few days. The results of cronyism in action. Unfortunately the results of this temper tantrum have drawn attention away from a very valid point the son of a bitch made later- FEMA has been gutted for the sake of "Homeland Security", whatever the hell that is.

WASHINGTON - A combative Michael Brown blamed the Louisiana governor, the New Orleans mayor and even the Bush White House that appointed him for the dismal response to Hurricane Katrina in a fiery appearance Tuesday before Congress. In response, lawmakers alternately lambasted and mocked the former FEMA director.

House members' scorching treatment of Brown, in a hearing stretching nearly 6 1/2 hours, underscored how he has become an emblem of the deaths, lingering floods and stranded survivors after the Aug. 29 storm. Brown resigned Sept. 12 after being relieved of his onsite command of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response effort three days earlier.

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," Brown told a special panel set up by House Republican leaders to investigate the catastrophe. Most Democrats, seeking an independent investigation, stayed away to protest what they called an unfair probe of the Republican administration by GOP lawmakers.

"I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together," Brown said. "I just couldn't pull that off."

Blanco vehemently denied that she waited until the eve of the storm to order an evacuation of New Orleans. She said her order came on the morning of Aug. 27 — two days before the storm — resulting in 1.3 million people evacuating the city.

"Such falsehoods and misleading statements, made under oath before Congress, are shocking," Blanco said in a statement.

Come out and say it, Kathleen. He was flat-out lying in this testimony. Perjury charges, anyone? Why not?

All this denial of responsibility has taken away from a very important aspect- even though this man is totally incompetent, what he has said about FEMA is true. Here is the money shot- the buck really stops at Chertoff and those higher up.

Brown described FEMA as a politically powerless arm of Homeland Security, which he said had siphoned more than $77 million from his agency over the past three years. Additionally, he said Homeland Security cut FEMA budget requests — including one for hurricane preparedness — before they were ever presented to Congress.

Since FEMA is now part of HS, there really needs to be an investigation of HS. Where in the hell is all that money that we gave them? But, because Brown looks like a total fool, I have a feeling this will be put all on him and that will be the end of the story. Chertoff will slide away unscathed.

C'mon media. Dig a little deeper on this. The Department of Homeland Security has a total budget of damn near $40 billion dollars, and it's homepage brags of their response times and preparedness. What have they been doing with themselves for the past four years? Someone needs to find out. & WOOD TV8 - Grand Rapids news and weather - Same Sex Benefits Ruling
I'm sure this won't be the last we hear of this.

(Kalamazoo, September 27, 2005) An Ingham County Circuit judge has ruled domestic partners of public employees can get health benefits. On Tuesday, Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk disagreed and said "Health care benefits for a spouse are benefits of employment, not benefits of marriage."

The ruling comes six months after Attorney General Mike Cox ruled that same-sex partners of public employees could not get health insurance. Cox stated the passing of Proposal Two in November saying that marriage is defined as a union between one and one woman meant that Michigan voters did not want public money supporting domestic partners.

24 Hour News 8 called both the Kalamazoo city manager's office and city attorney, our calls were not returned. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Mike Cox says he is disappointed in the ruling and is considering whether to appeal.

Oh, I'm sure it will be appealed. And I'm sure it will be brought up as a big boogieman in next year's election, too. Why, things would be just peachy if it weren't for the darn gays getting health insurance, right Dick?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Consumer Confidence Plummets in September - Yahoo! News
Oh good God. No wonder my sales have been poor.

NEW YORK - Consumer confidence plummeted almost 19 points in September, its biggest drop in 15 years, as Americans worried about the economic fallout of Hurricane Katrina and rising gasoline prices.

The Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index, compiled from a survey of U.S. households, dropped 18.9 points to 86.6, from a revised reading of 105.5.

That marked the biggest fall since October 1990 when the index fell 23 points to 62.6 in the wake of the recession. The September reading was also the lowest level since October 2003, when it registered 81.7.

Analysts had expected the September reading to be 98.

"Hurricane Katrina, coupled with soaring gasoline prices and a less optimistic job outlook, has pushed consumer confidence to its lowest level in nearly two years and created a degree of uncertainty and concern about the short-term future," Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center, said in a statement. "Historically, shocks have had a short-term impact on consumer confidence,especially on consumers' expectations."

Franco added, however, that as rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Katrina take hold and job growth gains momentum, consumers' confidence should rebound and return to "more positive levels by yearend or early 2006."

Economists closely track consumer confidence because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all U.S. economic activity.

And my heat bill just went up 21%. Yikes.
It's All About Football:

Atlanta 24, Buffalo 16
Miami 27, Carolina 24 (booo)
Cincinnati 24, Chicago 7
Indianapolis 13, Cleveland 6 (what is up with the Colt's offense?)
Jacksonville 26, N.Y. Jets 20 (OT)
Minnesota 33, New Orleans 16
Philadelphia 23, Oakland 20
Tampa Bay 17, Green Bay 16
St. Louis 31, Tennessee 27
Seattle 37, Arizona 12
Dallas 34, San Francisco 31 (grrrrr)
New England 23, Pittsburgh 20

San Diego 45, N.Y. Giants 23
Kansas City 10, Denver 30

10-4. And I was cheated on the Steelers game! (just kidding. If Randall-El (sp?) hadn't been such a hot-dog, they might have pulled it off.)

AlterNet: Government by Temper Tantrum
Once again, Molly Ivins nails it. Go read.

There's a doctoral dissertation to be written about Bush appointees named during the administration's frequent fits of Petulant Pique. These PP appointments are made in the immortal childhood spirit of "nanny-nanny boo-boo, I'll show you." Susan Wood resigns in protest over the politicization of women's health care? Ha! We'll show her -- we'll put a vet in charge instead!

The PP appointments are less for reasons of ideology or even rewarding the politically faithful than just in the old nyeh-nyeh spirit. You could, for example, put any number of people at the Department of Labor who are wholly unsympathetic to the labor movement -- Bush has installed shoals of them already. But there is a certain arch, flippant malice to making Edwin Foulke assistant secretary in charge of the health and safety of workers.

Republican appointees who oppose the agencies to which they are assigned are a dime a dozen, but Foulke is a partner from the most notorious union-busting law firm in the country. What he does for a living is destroy the only organizations that care about workers' health and safety.

Here's another PP pick: put a timber industry lobbyist in as head of the Forest Service. How about a mining industry lobbyist who believes public lands are unconstitutional in charge of the public lands? Nice shot. A utility lobbyist who represented the worst air polluters in the country as head of the clean air division at the EPA? A laff riot. As head of the Superfund, a woman whose last job was teaching corporate polluters how to evade Superfund regulations? Cute, cute, cute. A Monsanto lobbyist as No. 2 at the EPA. A lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute at the Council on Environmental Quality. And so on. And so forth.

The Federal Trade Commission was finally embarrassed enough by demands from Democratic governors to start an investigation into recent price gouging by oil companies. But the investigation will be headed by a former lawyer for ChevronTexaco. Is this fun or what? Nanny-nanny boo-boo.

The terrible lesson of Hurricane Katrina is that public policy is not a political gotcha game. The public interest is not well-served by appointing incompetents or anti-competents to positions of responsibility. Public policy is about our lives.

She's right. There is a big story here- someone needs to name names and put it all in one big concise package- these people are unfit for their jobs. Start with Bolton and work your way down. Hell, start with Cheney and work your way down.
FEMA Plans to Reimburse Faith Groups for Aid
Buying off the church. As much as it pisses me off, I have to laugh when I see these guys getting into bed with the government. Perhaps there needs to be some, oh, I don't know, TAXATION on churches if they are going to be so involved in political affairs? Hmmm?

After weeks of prodding by Republican lawmakers and the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said yesterday that it will use taxpayer money to reimburse churches and other religious organizations that have opened their doors to provide shelter, food and supplies to survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

FEMA officials said it would mark the first time that the government has made large-scale payments to religious groups for helping to cope with a domestic natural disaster.

"I believe it's appropriate for the federal government to assist the faith community because of the scale and scope of the effort and how long it's lasting," said Joe Becker, senior vice president for preparedness and response with the Red Cross.

Civil liberties groups called the decision a violation of the traditional boundary between church and state, accusing FEMA of trying to restore its battered reputation by playing to religious conservatives.

"What really frosts me about all this is, here is an administration that didn't do its job and now is trying to dig itself out by making right-wing groups happy," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Well, I guess people don't need to donate to their churches anymore if they are going to receive taxpayer bucks. Funny how this group tried to ween people off of "big government" by pushing them onto their local (religious) charities and community donations, but then turns around and gives those same churches some "big government" money. Watch as the churches become just another arm of "big government". Ha ha, suckers. Time for some regulations.

And I'm done with the Red Cross. I've read way too many stories of how the mismanage money and pay their own people lavish salaries. I think I'd rather give to an independent local group than pay for somebody's mansion.

Monday, September 26, 2005

CBS News Hurricane Rita Blog September 26, 2005

CBS) — CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Michael Brown, who recently resigned as the head of the FEMA, has been rehired by the agency as a consultant to evaluate it's response following Hurricane Katrina.

This is a joke, right? No? Well, it's still pretty funny. And par for the course...
US agency says tax breaks too costly, need review - Yahoo! News
Which tax breaks are too costly? The ones that go to YOU, Mr. and Mrs. Middle and Lower Class America! So, kiss them goodbye. Paris needs some new shoes.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tax breaks such as deductions for home mortgage interest and state and local taxes cost the federal government $728 billion last year and need to be reexamined, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report on Friday.

Comptroller General David Walker, who heads the agency, said the government must look at ways to rein in the growth of so-called tax expenditures if it is to avoid huge fiscal deficit problems in future years.

"We're on an imprudent, unsustainable fiscal path," Walker told a news conference. "The status quo is not an option and we're not going to grow our way out of this problem and the sooner we get started the better."

GAO launched the study to help contribute to federal tax reform debate in Washington that was expected to heat up this autumn. A Bush administration tax panel was scheduled to deliver its recommendations by September 30, but a spokeswoman said that will likely be delayed by at least a month due to Hurricane Katrina.

The GAO study said annual federal revenue losses tripled in real terms from $243 billion in 1974 to $728 billion in 2004. Tax expenditures peaked in 2002 at $783 billion before the full effects of the last recession cycled through the Internal Revenue Service.

For most of the last decade, revenue losses from tax expenditures were greater than the federal government's discretionary spending, the GAO said.

The biggest growth in recent years is the exclusion from income tax of employer-paid health insurance benefits, contributing $102.3 billion or 14 percent of the 2004 lost revenues. Deductability of home mortgage interest -- including second homes -- was the second biggest portion at $61.5 billion or 8.4 percent of the total.

What tax cuts? Heh heh. We are really screwed.
Many Contracts for Storm Work Raise Questions - New York Times
And the beat goes on...

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 - Topping the federal government's list of costs related to Hurricane Katrina is the $568 million in contracts for debris removal landed by a Florida company with ties to Mississippi's Republican governor. Near the bottom is an $89.95 bill for a pair of brown steel-toe shoes bought by an Environmental Protection Agency worker in Baton Rouge, La.

The first detailed tally of commitments from federal agencies since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast four weeks ago shows that more than 15 contracts exceed $100 million, including 5 of $500 million or more. Most of those were for clearing away the trees, homes and cars strewn across the region; purchasing trailers and mobile homes; or providing trucks, ships, buses and planes.

More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse.

Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.

Some industry and government officials questioned the costs of the debris-removal contracts, saying the Army Corps of Engineers had allowed a rate that was too high. And Congressional investigators are looking into the $568 million awarded to AshBritt, a Pompano Beach, Fla., company that was a client of the former lobbying firm of Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

Some businesses awarded large contracts have long records of performing similar work, but they also have had some problems. CH2M Hill and the Fluor Corporation, two global engineering companies awarded a total of $250 million in contracts, were previously cited by regulators for safety violations at a weapons plant cleanup.

The Bechtel Corporation, awarded a contract that could be worth $100 million, is under scrutiny for its oversight of the "Big Dig" construction project in Boston. And Kellogg, Brown & Root, which was given $60 million in contracts, was rebuked by federal auditors for unsubstantiated billing from the Iraq reconstruction and criticized for bills like $100-per-bag laundry service. All of the companies have publicly defended their performance.

Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, complained that FEMA and other federal agencies were delivering too much of the work to giant corporations with political connections, instead of local companies or minority-owned businesses.

"There is just more of the good-old-boy system, taking care of its political allies," Mr. Thompson said. "FEMA and the others have put out these contracts in such a haphazard manner, I don't know how they can come up with anything that is accountable to the taxpayers."

Can't trust the Republicans with the cookie jar. This should be the theme going into 2006.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Chicago Cubs : News :Rain puts damper on Cubs rally
I blog this only because the Cubs season was officially declared DOA with yesterday's loss.

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs were officially eliminated from the National League Wild Card race on Saturday.

Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman each hit first-inning home runs off Carlos Zambrano, and Morgan Ensberg drove in two runs to power the Houston Astros to a 8-3 victory over the Cubs.

"A couple balls caught too much of the plate early," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of the early homers. "We were still in the ballgame, and we ended up giving away like four runs on defense. You can't give away runs in the big leagues. We didn't play very good defense today."

No, Dusty, you didn't. As a matter of fact, you didn't play very good defense all year, you didn't play very good offense all year, you didn't manage very well all year, and if it wasn't for Derek Lee this team just might be in the frickin' basement. Thank God for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They only thing you and your sorry-ass team did do well all year is make constant excuses for yourself and your piss poor performance.


Here's to better days. Fire Dusty now, perhaps we will have them.
The Observer | International | Armed and dangerous - Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina
I demand the right to arm bears.

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly.

Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for government and industry, said he had received intelligence from sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped.

'My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,' he said. 'The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?'

Usually dolphins were controlled via signals transmitted through a neck harness. 'The question is, were these dolphins made secure before Katrina struck?' said Sheridan.

The mystery surfaced when a separate group of dolphins was washed from a commercial oceanarium on the Mississippi coast during Katrina. Eight were found with the navy's help, but the dolphins were not returned until US navy scientists had examined them.

Sheridan is convinced the scientists were keen to ensure the dolphins were not the navy's, understood to be kept in training ponds in a sound in Louisiana, close to Lake Pontchartrain, whose waters devastated New Orleans.
It's All About Football:

Lots of toss-ups this week. Thank God the Lions aren't playing.

Atlanta at Buffalo

Carolina at Miami (go Panthers!)

Cincinnati at Chicago (I refuse to believe the Bears are any good)

Cleveland at Indianapolis

Jacksonville at N.Y. Jets

New Orleans at Minnesota (The Vikings wake up)

Oakland at Philadelphia (Oakland looked almost bad as Detroit last week vs. KC)

Tampa Bay at Green Bay (I almost want to take Green Bay- I figure Brett's pride has to kick in here some time)

Tennessee at St. Louis (Gadzooks, I just don't know)

Arizona at Seattle

Dallas at San Francisco (screw you, Dallas)

New England at Pittsburgh (The game of the week, I hope it's on TV!)

N.Y. Giants at San Diego

Kansas City at Denver

Open date: Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Washington

Friday, September 23, 2005

WZZM 13 Grand Rapids - Granholm Blames Republicans For Continued Unemployment
Drastic differences in the news coverage around here. Channel 8 had Rick Albin up licking DeVos's boots in Mackinac, while 13 has this as a headline on their website.

LANSING, Mich. - Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm is criticizing Republicans for not acting on her proposals she says would improve Michigan's economy.

Granholm made many of the job creation proposals during her State of the State address in February. She said Republicans are not helping fix Michigan's economy, which has one of the nation's highest unemployment rates.

Granholm's comments came as Republicans were headed to Mackinac Island for a weekend leadership conference. Republicans will spend part of their time talking about challenging Granholm when she is up for re-election in 2006.

Republicans said Granholm's comments are a reaction to her declining job approval ratings.

Is 13 trying to court the more left-leaning citizens of this area? This isn't the first time I've noticed something like this.
Frist's HCA Stock Sale Being Investigated - Yahoo! News
Heh heh.

WASHINGTON - The Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors are investigating Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's sale of stock in HCA Inc., the hospital operating company founded by his family.

In a statement released Friday, the Nashville-based company said federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York issued a subpoena for documents HCA believes are related to the sale of its stock by the senator.

Frist's office confirmed the SEC is looking into the sale.

The SEC also contacted HCA on Friday to informally request copies of the subpoenaed documents, HCA spokesman Jeff Prescott said. "We of course will comply with that request," he said.

Frist traded using only public information, and only to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest, Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said in an e-mail Friday.

"Not surprisingly, the Securities and Exchange Commission contacted Senator Frist's office after the story appeared in the press about the sale of his Hospital Corporation of America stock," Stevenson said. "The majority leader will provide the SEC any information that it needs with respect to this matter."

Frist spokeswoman Amy Call again declined to comment on the timing of the sale, saying, "His only objective in selling the stock was to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest."

As Many As 24 Killed in Texas Bus Fire - Yahoo! News
This just breaks my heart.

WILMER, Texas - A bus carrying elderly evacuees from Hurricane Rita caught fire and was rocked by explosions early Friday on a gridlocked highway near Dallas, killing as many as 24 people, authorities said.

"Deputies were unable to get everyone off the bus," Dallas County Sheriff's Department spokesman Don Peritz said. He said he believes 24 people were killed, but that number could change.

The bus, with about 45 people on board, had been traveling since Thursday. Peritz declined to give details on who the passengers were except to say they were from a nursing home in Bellaire, an upscale enclave within Houston.

Early indications were that it caught fire because of mechanical problems, then passengers' oxygen tanks started exploding, Peritz said. He said the brakes may have been on fire.

The bus was engulfed with flames, causing a lengthy backup on Interstate 45 already congested with evacuees from the Gulf Coast. The bus was reduced to a blackened, burned-out shell with large blue tarps covering many seats, surrounded by police cars and ambulances.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Granholm For Governor: Home
It's 2006! (No, really!) Do you know where your favorite candidate is? Mine is on the air as of now.

Welcome to the Campaign Headquarters!

Please sign up for Team Granholm right now and start receiving campaign updates and news alerts. After that, become a volunteer. Make a contribution. Send an e-Postcard. However you can help, whatever you can do to join our fight, this is your one-stop shop.

Sign Jen's petition for lower gas prices!

I told 'em to send a yard sign. It will look good sticking out of the snow.
It's All About NOAA:

I took down all my pretty pictures of the satellite views of Rita because it was slowing down this blog, and half of the time the past few days I can't get the site to open.

SO- if and when things slow down, check out sometime. Awesome pictures.
Oil leaps above $68 - Yahoo! News
OK OK! I'm going this morning to fill up the tank. Y'all have scared me into it.

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil raced above $68 a barrel on Thursday as Hurricane Rita bore down on Gulf of Mexico and threatened to batter oil and gas infrastructure that is struggling to recover from Katrina.

So far, six refineries in Texas have been shut down as a precaution as Rita, now a maximum Category 5 storm, aimed her 175 mph (280 kph) winds on Texas, home to a quarter of U.S. refining capacity. She is expected to hit land by early Saturday.

U.S. light crude was up $1.30 at $68.10 a barrel at 1150 GMT, just below Wednesday's three-week high of $68.27.

London Brent crude was up 98 cents at $65.71.

"There is an awful lot of potential for damage," said Mark Keenan of London-based fund MPC.

Analysts predicted the biggest impact would be on products, as lost refining capacity aggravates a shortage of refined fuels, while overall crude stocks are comfortable.

"Certainly for product prices, the only way is up," Keenan said.

Analysts warned any damage to natural gas facilities could also have a very bullish impact because lost supplies would be far more difficult to replace than lost crude.

"The physical implications are potentially quite significant, particularly for heating oil, heading into winter in the United States, and natural gas," said Matthew Schwab, managing director of AIG Financial Products Corp.

But for now, gasoline futures were showing the sharpest gains among refined products.

Gasoline futures rose 10.68 cents to $2.1599 a gallon. Heating oil was up 4.88 cents to $2.0875.

I thought I could ride this out with the half-tank I have, but the doom and gloom people are gettting to me.

How in the hell am I going to heat this house this winter?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Lakeland Tigers
The 2004 Whitecaps, minus a few who were promoted up to Erie, tore up the Florida State League this year. Although they lost the championship game, the fifth game in a best of five, in 10 innings- it sounds like they had a helluva year.

When they started here in 2004, they were one of the worst Whitecaps teams I have ever seen.

Offensively, the Tigers finished second in home runs (129), second in runs scored (700), and third in team batting average (.276). They had six players belt 15 or more homers and hit six in a game twice, both times against teams that wound up in the playoffs.

And if their pitching, defense and hitting were not already impressive enough, consider this team's speed and baserunning prowess. Tiger runners put constant pressure on opposing defenses by stealing 166 bases during the regular season. Vince Blue stole more by himself (40) than the entire Dunedin team (30).

Overall, Lakeland finished in the top three in 15 different team defensive, offensive, and pitching statistical categories.

Lakeland has never had a team with a higher fielding percentage (.978), team batting average (.277), home run total (129) or saves by its closer (29).

When the regular season ended on Sept. 4, not only did the 2005 L-Tigers also have the highest winning percentage in franchise history (.639), but the best record of any of the 150 teams playing any level of full-season professional baseball in North America. In addition, they had the best record in pro ball within their own division (60-27), as well as on the road (46-23).

Good luck next year guys. The log jam of players starts at AA.
Rita now Category 4 hurricane - Yahoo! News
Fill up your tank yet?

MIAMI (Reuters) - After lashing the Florida Keys, Hurricane Rita was upgraded on Wednesday into a more powerful Category 4 storm as it headed across the Gulf of Mexico on a course that could take it to Texas and dump more rain on Katrina-battered Louisiana.

Rita's winds increased to 135 mph (193-kph) winds as it headed into the Gulf. The storm hit the Florida Keys but did not get close enough to reach the vulnerable chain of islands with its most destructive forces.

The upgrade put Rita in the same strength classification as Hurricane Katrina, which devastated parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama last month.

Rita's most likely future track would take it to Texas by the end of the week, raising fears the sprawling storm could bring heavy rains to flooded New Orleans and threaten the recovery of oil production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

I'll put up a link to a new picture as soon as they do. No one has yelled at me yet.
Frist Sold Hospital Shares Before Drop - Yahoo! News
Tell me again these guys aren't crooked.

WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, sold all his stock in his family's hospital corporation about two weeks before it issued a disappointing earnings report and the price fell nearly 15 percent.

Frist held an undisclosed amount of stock in Hospital Corporation of America, based in Nashville, Tenn., the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain. On June 13, he instructed the trustee managing the assets to sell his HCA shares and those of his wife and children, said Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Frist.

Frist's shares were sold by July 1 and those of his wife and children by July 8, Call said. The trustee decided when to sell the shares, and the Tennessee Republican had no control over the exact time they were sold, she said.

HCA shares peaked at midyear, climbing to $58.22 a share on June 22. After slipping slightly for two weeks, the price fell to $49.90 on July 13 after the company announced its quarterly earnings would not meet analysts' expectations. On Tuesday, the shares closed at $48.76.

The value of Frist's stock at the time of the sale was not disclosed. Earlier this year, he reported holding blind trusts valued at $7 million to $35 million.

Blind trusts are used to avoid conflicts of interest. Assets are turned over to a trustee who manages them without divulging any purchases or sales and reports only the total value and income earned to the owner.

To keep the trust blind, Frist was not allowed to know how much HCA stock he owned, Call said, but he was allowed to ask for all of it to be sold.

Reid seeks 'mainstream' nominee for US court - Yahoo! News
The next one will be the big fight...and I don't expect anything resembling "mainstream" coming from Bush. Batten down the hatches.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he will ask President George W. Bush on Wednesday that his second nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court be "mainstream, not extreme."

With the court's balance of power likely at stake, Reid said he will make his case at a White House breakfast meeting with Bush and fellow Senate leaders.

The president's first Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts, appears headed toward Senate confirmation next week as the nation's 17th chief justice. Attention now is beginning to focus on who Bush may offer as his second nominee. That person would likely face a tougher fight.

Easing Roberts' path toward confirmation is the belief he would not shift the balance of power on the nine-member court. He would succeed the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who had been the court's conservative anchor for three decades.

A tougher fight is expected over Bush's next nominee, who would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate conservative who has been the swing vote on the often bitterly divided court.

On Tuesday, Reid said there was no doubt that Roberts would be confirmed but that he would vote against the 50-year-old conservative.

Reid said while Roberts, a federal appeals judge the past two years, is a smart man, "I'm not too sure if his heart is as big as his head."

As for Bush's pending nominee, Reid said, "We want him to give us a candidate who is mainstream, not extreme."

"A number of candidates who have been talked about are extreme," Reid said.

Reid did not name names but said he would find as problematic any of the 10 federal appeals court nominees who Democrats blocked during Bush's first term.

Give 'em hell, Harry.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

World has slim chance to stop flu pandemic - Yahoo! News
And we worry about's some cheery news that keeps flying just a bit below the radar.

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (Reuters) - The initial outbreak of what could explode into a bird flu pandemic may affect only a few people, but the world will have just weeks to contain the deadly virus before it spreads and kills millions.

Chances of containment are limited because the potentially catastrophic infection may not be detected until it has already spread to several countries, like the SARS virus in 2003. Avian flu vaccines developed in advance will have little impact on the pandemic virus.

It will take scientists four to six months to develop a vaccine that protects against the pandemic virus, by which time thousands could have died. There is little likelihood a vaccine will even reach the country where the pandemic starts.

That is the scenario outlined on Tuesday by Dr Hitoshi Oshitani, the man who was on the frontline in the battle against SARS and now leads the fight against avian flu in Asia.

"SARS in retrospect was an easy virus to contain," said Oshitani, the World Health Organization's Asian communicable diseases expert.

"The pandemic virus is much more difficult, maybe impossible, to contain once it starts," he told Reuters at a WHO conference in Noumea, capital of the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia. "The geographic spread is historically unprecedented."

Oshitani said nobody knew when a pandemic would occur, it could be within weeks or years, but all the conditions were in place, save one -- a virus that transmitted from human to human.

The contagious H5N1 virus, which has killed 64 people in four Asian countries since it was first detected in 2003, might not be the one to trigger the pandemic, he said. Instead a genetically different strain could develop that passes between humans.

While bird flu cases continued to spread throughout Asia, with Indonesia this week placed on alert after reporting four deaths, Oshitani said the winter months of December, January and February would see an acceleration in cases, and the more human cases the greater risk that the virus would mutate.

I've been meaning to read "The Stand" again.
It's All About Football:

Baltimore 10 Tennessee 25
Buffalo 3 Tampa Bay 19
Detroit 6 Chicago 38
Jacksonville 3 Indianapolis 10
Minnesota 8 Cincinnati 37

New England 17 Carolina 27
Pittsburgh 27 Houston 7
San Francisco 3 Philadelphia 42
Atlanta 18 Seattle 21
St. Louis 17 Arizona 12
Cleveland 26 Green Bay 24
Miami 7 N.Y. Jets 17
San Diego 17 Denver 20
Kansas City 23 Oakland 17

N.Y. Giants 27 New Orleans 10
Washington 14 Dallas 13

10-6 for the week. Sure wish I'd had some money on those Panthers!
House GOP Scraps Plan for Joint Probe on Hurricane Response - Los Angeles Times
Look what happens when Democrats stand together. Gee, maybe they should try it more often.

WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans signaled today that they have abandoned their plan to conduct a joint House-Senate probe of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

In announcing a joint probe this month, the Republican leadership had said it would be the most efficient way to investigate the administration's much-criticized initial response to the hurricane. But today, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) conceded that he could not overcome Democratic opposition to a joint investigation.

The Democratic leadership has refused to appoint members to a joint committee, citing the lack of equal representation of Democrats on the panel, and the lack of power to issue subpoenas that the majority opposed. Democrats also have insisted on an independent inquiry.

Democratic opposition has left Republicans little maneuvering room for mounting a credible probe. With the joint investigation apparently off the table, Republicans can only hope that Democrats will participate in each chamber's separate investigation. It was far from clear today that Democrats would do that.

Stick to your guns, kids.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Polls
Ooops! Speechie-no-workie. What now, Georgie? Wait...don't answer that!

September 18, 2005--Thirty-five percent (35%) of Americans now say that President Bush has done a good or excellent job responding to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. That's down from 39% before his speech from New Orleans.

The latest Rasmussen Reports survey shows that 41% give the President poor marks for handling the crisis, that's up 37% before the speech.

Fifty percent (50%) of Americans favor the main proposal from that speech--a federal commitment of $200 billion to help rebuild New Orleans. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are opposed and 23% are not sure.

The spending plan has not been well received by conservative voters--just 43% favor the huge federal commitment partisan while 37% are opposed. This is especially striking given how supportive the President's base has remained throughout his Administration.

The President's reconstruction plan is favored by 66% of liberal voters. Still, only 10% of liberals give the President a good or an excellent rating for handling the crisis.

Following the speech, the President's rating for handling the Katrina crisis fell eight points among Republicans (from 71% good or excellent to 63%). The President also draws good or excellent marks from 11% of Democrats and 31% of those not affiliated with either major political party.

Heh heh heh. C'mon Dems, there is a hole in this defensive line big enough to drive a tank through. What the fuck are you waiting for?
It's All About Football:

Back in da day we used to pick football games and keep track of who did the best. The prize was "bragging rights", or something, I don't remember. I just know that I won one year.

Anyway, inspired by Ogie- here are my picks for this week. Not going to worry about scores- it's too much work. :-)

I pick based from the gut, and from a place of affinity with the Detroit Lions (because I live here), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (because I have visited there- and the spirit surrounding the Bucs is phenomenal), the Carolina Panthers (for Natalie), the Green Bay Packers (for Mom, although I think they are in for a bad year), the Indianapolis Colts (for my youth).

So here we go. Keep in mind that I haven't been following football as close as I used to. The winners in bold.

Sunday, Sep. 18

Baltimore at Tennessee
(I think the Titans are pretty much used up, but Baltimore lost it's QB last week (?) so this might be closer than I think)

Buffalo at Tampa Bay
(Tampa, the surprise team this year. I have the utmost faith in Jon Gruden)

Detroit at Chicago
(I think the Lions might be for real. But I think that every year, and I'm proven wrong. The Bears looked lackluster last week- as they have for years)

Jacksonville at Indianapolis

Minnesota at Cincinnati
(I truly believe Minnesota sucks worse than you think they do)

New England at Carolina
(Upset pick of the week- but I realize this is pretty far out on the limb. I wouldn't put money on it)

Pittsburgh at Houston
(Pitt could go all the way)

San Francisco at Philadelphia
(Iggles bounces back)

Atlanta at Seattle
(another upset pick. I still can't believe that Atlanta is for real, but maybe they are)

St. Louis at Arizona
(Not sure I believe the hype about the Cards being any good)

Cleveland at Green Bay
(Sorry, Mom- but Green Bay has a tendency to beat Green Bay. I will gladly apologize if the Pack turns it around)

Miami at N.Y. Jets
(Miami might be another surprise this year. I could be very wrong about that)

San Diego at Denver
(Toss up. I just don't know)

Kansas City at Oakland
(Another toss up. This division confuses the hell out of me)

Monday, Sep. 19

N.Y. Giants at New Orleans
(The feel-good Saints party stops here, although I'm rooting for them)

Washington at Dallas
(I hate Dallas, but Washington looked pretty bad last week)

They Shoot News Anchors, Don't They?
Interesting story of the media and the role they play in shaping perception. They came alive for just a second, and then quickly reverted back to the pabulum that passes for news. I would love to see some documents that purposely tell journalists to "put a happy face" on this tragedy.

At first only CNN appeared not to have thoroughly read the proverbial memo. It was the only network, on air and on its Web site, to compare and contrast the wildly contradictory statements by federal, state and local officials, sometimes within hours, but often within minutes of each other. It was CNN that posted the first full transcript of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's profanity- and passion-filled September 2 interview on local radio. It was also CNN that first exposed the gruesome nature of the conditions at the Superdome, at the convention center and in the hospital corridors. Its broadcasters were the first to keep a heart-wrenching online blog during Katrina. Even as late as September 6, political correspondent Ed Henry was the first to counter the claims by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay that local officials and not the feds were to blame, by reporting that congressional Republicans, in a secret confab, were giving the Bush administration a big fat F.

Then the fix was in.

For the first 120 hours after Hurricane Katrina, TV journalists were let off their leashes by their mogul owners, the result of a rare conjoining of flawless timing (summer's biggest vacation week) and foulest tragedy (America's worst natural disaster). All of a sudden, broadcasters narrated disturbing images of the poor, the minority, the aged, the sick and the dead, and discussed complex issues like poverty, race, class, infirmity and ecology that never make it on the air in this swift-boat/anti-gay-marriage/Michael Jackson media-sideshow era. So began a perfect storm of controversy.

Contrary to the scripture so often quoted in these areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, the TV newscasters knew the truth, but the truth did not set them free. Because once the crisis point had passed, most TV journalists went back to business-as-usual, their choke chains yanked by no-longer-inattentive parent-company bosses who, fearful of fallout from fingering Dubya for the FEMA fuckups, decided yet again to sacrifice community need for corporate greed. Too quickly, Katrina's wake was spun into a web of deceit by the Bush administration, then disseminated by the Big Media boys' club. (Karl Rove spent the post-hurricane weekend conjuring up ways to shift blame.)

If big media look like they're propping up W's presidency, they are. Because doing so is good for corporate coffers - in the form of government contracts, billion-dollar tax breaks, regulatory relaxations and security favors. At least that wily old codger Sumner Redstone, head of Viacom, parent company of CBS, has admitted what everyone already knows is true: that, while he personally may be a Democrat, "It happens that I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one."

When it comes to NBC's parent company, GE's No. 1 and No. 2, Jeffrey Immelt and Bob Wright, are avowed Republicans, as are Time Warner's Dick Parsons (CNN) and News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch (Fox News Channel). (Forget that Murdoch's No. 2, Peter Chernin, and Redstone's co–No. 2, Les Moonves, are avowed Democrats - it's meaningless because Murdoch and Redstone are the owners.)

Once upon a time, large corporations and their executives typically avoided any public discussion of their politics because partisan positions alienated customers and employees. But all of that changed after GE bought NBC in 1986. For seemingly eons, Immelt's predecessor, the legendary Jack Welch, was a rabid right-winger who boasted openly about helping turn former liberals Chris Matthews and Tim Russert into neocons. (And Los Angeles Representative Henry Waxman is still waiting for GE to turn over those in-house tapes that would prove once and for all whether Welch, in 2000, ordered his network and cable stations to reverse course and call the election for Bush instead of Gore.)

As for Immelt, he publicly wishes his MSNBC could be a clone of FNC. Not surprising, since he let his network and cable news cheerlead the run-up to the Iraqi war without ever bothering to tell viewers GE had billions in contracts pending. More than half of Iraq's power grid is GE technology. It was also under Immelt that GE installed a former adviser to W and Condi, who also served as press secretary to former first lady Barbara "Let 'em eat cake" Bush, as NBC Universal's executive vice president of communications.

And let's not forget that in October 2004, the Republican-controlled House and Senate and White House okayed a $137 billion corporate-tax bill - dubbed "No Lobbyist Left Behind" - that gave a huge $8 billion tax break to GE, which had bankrolled a record $17 million lobbying effort for it. (Meanwhile, in that same bill, House Republicans at the last minute stripped the movie studios of about $1 billion worth of tax credits because of Hollywood's near-constant support of the Democratic Party and its candidates.)

Given all of the above, it comes as no surprise that, as early as that first Saturday, certainly by Sunday, inevitably by Monday, and no later than Tuesday, the post-Katrina images and issues were heavily weighted once again toward the power brokers and the predictable. The angry black guys were gone, and the lying white guys were back, hogging all the TV airtime. So many congressional Republicans were lined up on air to denounce the "blame-Bush game" - all the while decrying the Louisiana Democrats-in-charge - that it could have been conga night at the Chevy Chase Country Club.

There is more- it's an interesting read.

Live reports from people on the scene tell of the horror that is still occuring. The media proclaims, "The bars are open!" as if that makes everything OK.

And America goes back to sleep.

My father and I recently had a discussion on how, ultimately, it was the media's job to "sell soap", meaning, it was all about ratings and ad revenue.

Perhaps they have learned that "selling Republicans" is much more lucrative.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Globe and Mail: Sex toys coming soon to drugstore near you
Canada is soooo cool...

Better believe it. Shoppers Drug Mart, the country's largest drugstore chain, Wal-Mart Canada and a slew of other stores have entered into agreements to stock their shelves, coast to coast, with a new line of sex toys, discreetly called "sexual well-being products."

The move is especially surprising for Wal-Mart, which doesn't sell video games rated "adult-only" and recently removed a magazine from one of its stores after a customer complained that it was too sexual.

But Wal-Mart Canada spokesman Kevin Groh said the product line is a good fit, as the company caters to the Canadian mainstream and, as such, carries products that reflect mainstream tastes.

He added, however, that some of Wal-Mart's customers will undoubtedly disapprove. "It would be naive of us to think every product we stock would meet the approval of every single customer in the store."

Sex toys and Wal-Mart?

According to some sex educators, it underscores a growing acceptance for open discourse about sex in Canada.

"People have a disposition to explore sexuality," said Cory Silverburg, a sex educator and co-owner of Come As You Are, a Toronto sex toy, book and video store. "I'm thrilled to be living in a country where we can do that."

I would love to see them try this here. All the fundies would be apoplectic, and that would be a riot.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Daily Kos: OK, Fine. It's the Apocalypse.
I love this guy...

The person who is being placed in charge of the Gulf Coast rebuilding effort, in the wake of stunning government bungling of a national disaster due to political patrons who had no expertise in their ostensible "duties" for which they were collecting paychecks: yes, Karl Rove. And apparently, nobody in the media has a problem with this, because we're essentially all used to the notion that the manner in which, for example, primarily-black neighborhoods in New Orleans get rebuilt, or not, is a task best left to the President's loyal election strategist...

True Conservatives are tonight up in arms over the cost of rebuilding New Orleans, and demand budget cuts to pay for it. Budget cuts deemed necessary to pay for the Iraq War? None. Zip. Nada. Well, a few minor levees that nobody really cares about or will ever notice...

Insane Foaming Monkey Conservatives are working themselves into a more foamy state than usual, and apparently have some sort of blastfax campaign going on over the design of the Flight 93 Memorial which -- shudder -- is crescent-shaped. I hereby predict the next wingnut attack will be upon... the accursed, goddamn, communist moon. Since the beginning of time, man has yearned to destroy the moon, the news reports will gush, as the rockets are readied in order to square that damn puppy for once and for all...

Pre-Inquisition Conservatives are proudly hawking the notion that dinosaurs and blue-eyed white guys were holding bake sales together 5,000 years ago. Because it's not enough to merely believe God created the universe -- he also specifically planted an entire false history of the universe to screw with you, you sodomy-loving, DNA-believing-in, post-Newtonian bastards. You just wait, we're only a few months away from digging up an authentic handcrafted dinosaur saddle that will prove that at least one prehistoric Big 5 Sporting Goods Store survived the Biblical flood. Presuming you're among the Pre-Inquisition Conservatives who acknowledge the existence of dinosaurs at all, mind you -- and if you are, the rest of the non-believing-in-dinosaurs movement hereby condemns you for falling for another of God's devious nature-based soul mousetraps: yep, you're going to Hell.

But hey, on our own side of the ideological divide, I just followed a circuitous trail of links and trackbacks taking me to one single very astute opinion that... ugh. You know, never mind. Insert your own war here, I don't care which one. Suffice it to say that if conservatives had a lock on every half-baked unnecessarily conspiratorial premise on the planet, I'd die a happy man. But they don't, and I won't. The salad fork goes on the left side, dammit, or it proves you may not carry the holy mantle of Blogtopia, which is big and shiny and knows all and is all powerful and likes me better than you and could easily beat Chewbacca in a fight as long as nobody had blasters!

That's it. I'm done. You might as well kill me now, because it's the Apocalypse. All life on this planet is no doubt mere days away from coming to an end, because really -- mankind couldn't possibly get any stupider. Not possible.

In my life, I've seen 70's-era fashions that seemed to be based on the fabric equivalent of haggis. I had to listen to Ronald Freaking Reagan being praised as The Great Cultural Father. I've watched Britney Spears become famous. I've seen a Leading Religious Figure hawk videos during his Happy CouchPotato Prayertime Hour detailing how President Clinton was incontrovertibly a Central American drug lord. I've watched Orwell become praised by the right. I've watched Ozymandias become a Republican military strategy guide. I've seen the pilot episode of Manimal.

And this is worse. This, finally, is the long-awaited Apocalypse. Clearly, Terri Schiavo was the glue holding the last threads of the universe together, just as Tom DeLay had foretold in his Holy But Questionably Legal Checkbook Prophesies.

And I really, honestly feel fine, now that I'm adjusted to the notion.

Well, aside from a slight stinging sensation in the center of my brain. But I'm sure it will pass.

If you want, you can use this as an open thread. Or you can reflect back on how great the universe was, back when it actually existed, and when you, personally, realized the end was near. Good bye, cruel world. Good bye.

Hunter is moving slowly into Mark Morford land, but he writes better...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

House backs hate crime measure protecting gays - Yahoo! News
In general, I have a problem with the term "hate crime". Crime is crime. Assault is assault. Murder is murder. If you feel that the penalties for those crimes need to be enhanced with other charges, then perhaps the original penalties are not stiff enough.

Anyway- I'm still happy to see that THIS current House even considered the rights of gay people. It's nothing short of a miracle.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unexpectedly backed a measure to expand federal hate crime protection to gay people, a measure that House conservatives had blocked for years.

The Senate has passed similar legislation, which also expanded protections for the disabled, several times in recent years but House conservatives had argued that these cases should be dealt with on a local or state level without additional federal intervention.

This time the hate crime measure was attached to a bipartisan bill known as the Children's Safety Act aimed at tightening reporting requirements for child sex offenders. Companion legislation has not yet moved through the Senate, so the ultimate fate of the gay protection provision is uncertain.

The hate crimes amendment would expand existing federal hate crime program to add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to federal hate crime laws. It would give grants to the states to help prosecute such crimes.

Backers of the legislation, a top priority for gay rights and disabled advocacy groups, have been trying to enact it since at least 1998, when the gaps in existing law were highlighted by two heinous crimes -- the dragging death of a black man named James Byrd in Texas and the death of Matthew Shepard.

So, are you saying that some states don't prosecute or investigate crimes because they don't have the money? Sad.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

House Republicans block bid for CIA leak data - Yahoo! News
G.O.P.= Party before country. See my next post for more proof of this.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. congressional committees on Wednesday rejected Democrat-backed resolutions that would have compelled the Bush administration to turn over records relating to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee and International Relations Committee, who opposed the resolution, said Congress should await the outcome of a federal investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.

Democrats countered that Republicans were trying to protect President George W. Bush and his top political adviser, Karl Rove. "We know that this is a political decision because there is potential embarrassment to the administration," said Massachusetts Democratic Rep. William Delahunt (news, bio, voting record).

The resolutions, rejected in committee votes along party lines, sought to force the departments of Justice and State to turn over all documents related to Plame.

Lawyers close to the Plame investigation say there are signs that the 20-month-long inquiry could be wrapped up within weeks. The outcome could have major political implications for Bush, whose approval ratings are already the lowest of his presidency.

Keeping you safe., wait...keeping George Bush safe. Yeah, that's it. Read on...
Senate Kills Bid for Katrina Commission - New York Times
This should read "Senate Republicans kill bid for Katrina Commission".

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Republicans on Wednesday scuttled an attempt by Sen. Hillary Clinton to establish an independent, bipartisan panel patterned after the 9/11 Commission to investigate what went wrong with federal, state and local governments' response to Hurricane Katrina.

The New York Democrat's bid to establish the panel -- which would have also made recommendations on how to improve the government's disaster response apparatus -- failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Clinton got only 44 votes, all from Democrats and independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont. Fifty-four Republicans all voted no.

''Just as with 9/11, we did not get to the point where we believed we understood what happened until an independent investigation was conducted,'' Clinton said.

The Senate vote is hardly likely to be the last word on whether to create an independent commission or as an alternative a special congressional committee to investigate Katrina. The 9/11 Commission was established in 2002 after resistance from Republicans and the White House, and opinion polls show the public strongly supports the idea. In a CNN/USA Today Gallup poll taken Sept. 8-11, 70 percent of those surveyed supported an independent panel to investigate the government's response to Katrina. Only 29 percent were opposed.

Once again the Republicans as a whole thwart the wishes of the American people. Keep it up boys (and girls). Lots of soundbites for 2006.
KR Washington Bureau | 09/13/2005 | Chertoff delayed federal response, memo shows

WASHINGTON - The federal official with the power to mobilize a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not the former FEMA chief who was relieved of his duties and resigned earlier this week, federal documents reviewed by Knight Ridder show.

Even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Chertoff could have ordered federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown had only limited authority to do so until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm.

As thousands of hurricane victims went without food, water and shelter in the days after Katrina's early morning Aug. 29 landfall, critics assailed Brown for being responsible for delays that might have cost hundreds of lives.

But Chertoff - not Brown - was in charge of managing the national response to a catastrophic disaster, according to the National Response Plan, the federal government's blueprint for how agencies will handle major natural disasters or terrorist incidents. An order issued by President Bush in 2003 also assigned that responsibility to the homeland security director.

But according to a memo obtained by Knight Ridder, Chertoff didn't shift that power to Brown until late afternoon or evening on Aug. 30, about 36 hours after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi. That same memo suggests that Chertoff may have been confused about his lead role in disaster response and that of his department.

So...will Mr. Chertoff be taking any responsibility? Or is he still confused?

Feeling safer now, America?
A Fatal Incuriosity - New York Times
We have to suck up all the Dowd and Krugman we can- starting next Monday they become part of a "paid subscription" feature only, which means they will virtually disappear from the blogs. Perhaps it's time to start a secret file swapping service for op-ed columnists.

President Bush continued to try to spin his own inaction yesterday, but he may finally have reached a patch of reality beyond spin. Now he's the one drowning, unable to rescue himself by patting small black children on the head during photo-ops and making scripted attempts to appear engaged. He can keep going back down there, as he will again on Thursday when he gives a televised speech to the nation, but he can never compensate for his tragic inattention during days when so many lives could have been saved.

He made the ultimate sacrifice and admitted his administration had messed up, something he'd refused to do through all of the other screw-ups, from phantom W.M.D. and the torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo to the miscalculations on the Iraq occupation and the insurgency, which will soon claim 2,000 young Americans.

How many places will be in shambles by the time the Bush crew leaves office?

Given that the Bush team has dealt with both gulf crises, Iraq and Katrina, with the same deadly mixture of arrogance and incompetence, and a refusal to face reality, it's frightening to think how it will handle the most demanding act of government domestic investment since the New Deal.

I know exactly how he will handle it, and you do too. He will give all the rebuilding contracts to his buddies and campaign contributers. It has already started. For removal of bodies, we are going with a Texas firm that has been implicated in the illegal dumping of remains. Why? Friend of the family. The intersting thing about that story is that FEMA couldn't seal the deal- Blanco did it.
Kenyon is a subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI), a scandal-ridden Texas-based company operated by a friend of the Bush family. Recently, SCI subsidiaries have been implicated in illegally discarding and desecrating corpses.

Louisiana governor Katherine Blanco subsequently inked a contract with the firm after talks between FEMA and the firm broke down. Kenyon's original deal was secured by the Department of Homeland Security.

In other words, FEMA and then Blanco outsourced the body count from Hurricane Katrina -- which many believe the worst natural disaster in U.S. history -- to a firm whose parent company is known for its "experience" at hiding and dumping bodies.

And off we go. More rich white people will continue to get richer- and you will ending paying the price at the pump and at your furnace. And God knows where else.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bush: 'I take responsibility' - Yahoo! News
What? WHAT? Bush actually takes responsibility for something?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush took responsibility on Tuesday for any failures in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and acknowledged the storm exposed serious deficiencies at all levels of government four years after the September 11 attacks.

"To the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush told a White House news conference at which he openly questioned U.S. preparedness for another storm or a "severe attack."

Bush's rare admission of "serious problems in our response capability" came as the White House stepped up efforts to repair his public standing. Bush will address the nation at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT) on Thursday from hard-hit Louisiana, his fourth visit to the disaster zone since Katrina struck.

Well, George, if you are responsible, maybe you should RESIGN. After all, responsibilities carry consequences when you fail to meet them.

Daily Kos: Cheers and Jeers: Tuesday
On my daily "must-read" is Cheers and Jeers from Bill in Portland Maine. There is a reason this guy wins awards.


Please help the real victims of Hurricane Katrina...

Those poor "fiscal conservative" Republicans. They Approved $54.4 billion for the Iraq War (enacted in April 2003) $70.6 billion (enacted November 2003) $21.5 billion (passed as part of regular appropriations for the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2005) $58 billion (enacted April 2005). Our war of choice is costing us $5.6 billion per month and that's just peachy.

They rammed a $530 billion Medicare bill through Congress in the middle of the night and that felt soooo goooood. (the original price tag, you might remember, was $400 billion. But what's $130 billion among friends?)

This was nice: a $14.5 billion energy bill that, according to the president, doesn't do a damn thing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but does give financial hoochie-koochies to the oil companies which they can stack on top of their record-breaking profits. Suh-weeet!

How about $2.2 trillion with a T in tax cuts for the rich---during wartime even! Or a pork-laden, $286 billion transportation bill. That's orgasmo-tastic!

And while we're at it, let's not forget Social Security privatization, which would toss at least another $1 trillion onto the pile.

But...funding for relief efforts to help victims of the worst natural disaster in our nation's 229-year history? Well...that's cause for grave concern by Republican "fiscal conservatives":

"We have to be there for the families and the communities, but we also have an obligation to the rest of the American people and to future generations," says Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana).

"We're going to have to put a real sharp pencil to the budget, sharper than we have ever had to do before," says Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Illinois).

"When figures start flowing up to $200 billion, I have concerns. $1 billion is a lot of money," says Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama).

Clearly, "fiscal conservative" Republicans need our support more than ever in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They're suffering and no one seems to feel their pain. Please show you care and donate as much as you can by placing (non tax-deductible) donations into the ExxonMobil baseball cap in the lobby. God Bless You...and God Bless the Fiscally Conservative United States of America!

If you click on the article he provides links to all these facts. Snarky goodness.