Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Delay and the spreading ooze effect

It's a little early to be dancing on Tom Delay's political grave. For all we know, he could walk away a free man from the conspiracy indictment leveled against him by a Texas grand jury. Hell, he might even be innocent, or let's just say not guilty, because no one could ever really call Delay innocent.

But it sure looks like justice for a man who has spent his career five miles beyond the line that any reasonable person would say divides the ethical from the shady. And if anybody still questions how shady Delay is, they should read my June 6 posting, "Delay tactics" by clicking here.

The indictment against Delay charges that he and his buddies at a PAC called Texans for a Republican Majority engaged in a money laundering scheme to funnel $190,000 from corporate donors to Republican candidates in the Lone Star state. Texas law forbids the use of corporate contributions to political campaigns, so Delay and the folks at TRMPAC allegedly concocted this scheme.

To read his response and for a few laughs, take a look at his personal website by clicking here. The site gives Delay's own legal analysis of the charges against him, as well as a page devoted to smears against Ronnie Earle, the Austin, Texas, district attorney who is prosecuting him. "Our team can't rely on the mainstream media," Delay's site reads, providing the best argument yet for supporting the mainstream media. He does liberally quote such bastions of responsible journalism as the Washington Times and National Review.

Now let's talk about Ronnie Earle. Delay and his right-wing cronies have called him all sorts of things like vindictive and partisan, to which Earle replied in a 60 Minutes interview, "Being called vindictive and partisan by Tom DeLay is like being called ugly by a frog. It sort of comes with the territory. But that’s my job. That’s what I’m supposed to do." Right-wingers would like to characterize this as a renegade politician out to persecute his opponents.

But the fact is, of all the politicans Earle has investigated and prosecuted, most have been Democrats. Their ranks include Bob Bullock, at the time state comptroller and later lieutenant governor; Gib Lewis, a former speaker of the house; and Warren G. Harding, a former state treaasurer. These aren't low-level Democratic hacks, but top office-holders.

"I have some very, very bitter feelings toward him," Lewis told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, adding that his true feelings about Earle are unprintable.

But I digress, which is exactly what Delay wants all of us to do. Even if he isn't convicted on the charges, Delay's political sun is quickly setting. He's another in a long list of scoundrels who lived by the political sword and die by the political sword. Think Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott. And then think of the growing list of conservatives caught up in charges of ethical malfeasance: Bill Frist, David Safavian, Jack Abramoff. For an entire list of GOP miscreants, check out this admittedly biased page from the Democratic National Committee here.

This spreading ethical ooze of the GOP threatens along with other developments to derail Republican supremacy and even the conservative movement. E.J. Dionne said it best today on NPR's All Things Considered when he pointed out that what had been a party of ideas seems to have devolved into a political machine.

Quote of the Day
"Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"
- Delay, chatting up three young Katrina survivors sheltered at Houston's Reliant Park, comparing their predicament to a camping trip.

Seen on a bumper sticker
"Annoy a conservative: Share."

Monday, September 26, 2005


The drunken sailors go on another binge

With estimates of rebuilding the Gulf Coast currently running as high as $200 billion, politicians and wonks are scratching their heads wondering where the money is coming from. No doubt, we need to spend whatever is necessary in response to Katrina and Rita. But with fighting a war in Iraq and financing gross tax cuts for the uberwealthy, I'm feeling quite dizzy these days wrapping my little pea brain around the idea of a $4 trillion deficit. It seems like not so long ago, in another presidential administration, we had a budget surplus. But that was then, this is now.

Our Repbublican friends have been clear about where the money is not coming from. It won't be coming from a repeal in the tax cuts for the top 1 percent of Americans. It also won't come from putting a stop to the $24 billion squealing and oinking highway bill recently passed. Tom Delay told The New York Times that he would be loathe to put a stop all those highway projects his constituents in Houston expect.

"My earmarks are pretty important to building an economy in that region," Delay said of his pet projects, which one watchdog group said would cost $114 million.

So what are the Republicans, who control both the White House and Congress, willing to ax?

Well, let's start with the infamous Medicaid prescription bill, a monstrosity of legendary proportions that deserves to get axed. Of course, that will leave us back at square one on the question of how to make prescription drugs more affordable with no relief going to anyone. Also on the chopping block is all government funding to PBS, something that in theory I support because I'm tired of all the right-wing whining about liberal bias and would like to see public broadcasting earn independence once and for all from the politicians. Yet, here's another instance in which government spending for average folks is seen as a vice.

And we haven't begun to hear about what the right-wingers might propose next. I've already been labeled a conspiracy theorist by some right-wingers, so I'll throw caution to the wind here and suggest that Katrina is the excuse Republicans have been seeking to cut a great deal of government spending that benefits average Americans. No, I don't think there's a secret lab somewhere in Nevada where conservatives manufacture hurricanes to perpetuate their agenda. But we're all aware of the current regime's sense of opportunism and determination to impose its ideological dogma on the rest of America.

Putting aside who would be hurt most by these budget cuts, we should also lament the insanity of the Republican spending spree that has gotten us into this mess in the first place. Our national debt is just under $8 trillion; over 40 percent of that debt is owed to Japan and China. Do you think that partly explains we turn a blind eye to some of the worst human rights abuses on the planet perpetuated from Beijing? Remember the old excuse, "It's OK. That's just money we owe ourselves." Not true anymore! As recently as 10 years ago, we owed 20 percent of our debt to foreighners. And consider this: each of us owes Beijing and Tokyo more than $6,000.

As that debt increases, a larger percentage of each dollar you spend in taxes will be used to pay interest. I know you don't like to pay taxes, but I'm sure you'd at least like for it to be spent on something useful like new highways in Tom Delay's congressional district. Hard to believe isn't it, that just five years ago we had balanced the budget and were running surpluses and were even considering the unthinkable idea of saving Social Security with all that extra money. Now we're even loathe to rebuild a substantial chunk of America wiped out by a hurricane.

Hope you weren't planning to retire anytime in your lifetime. Your country needs you to pay off that debt.

The Concord Coalition, led by former senators Warren Rudman and Bob Kerrey, is one of the leading voices raised against the frightening level of spending going on these days in Washington.

Another good source of information is the Grandfather Economic Reports, which describes in easy-to-understand language how your future, as well your children's and grandchildren's futures are being squandered by our president and Congress.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


A brave new post-Katrina world

Right-wing ideologues, always out to engineer a utopian world, have set their sites on New Orleans, according the Wall Street Journal. The Journal, not exactly known for its liberal alarmism, contends that right-wingers have envisioned a new conservative civilization rising from the ashes - make that mud - of New Orleans and the Mississippi coast.

"The desire to bring conservative, free-market ideas to the Gulf Coast is white hot," said U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind, who also leads the Republican Study Group.

Said William A. Niskanen, a fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute: "Everyone is attaching their own agenda to this.... It's being seen as a test of the conservative agenda, from enterprise zones to school vouchers and the repeal of labor laws, and these ideas deserve careful thought."

Maybe they'll even change New Orleans' name to Aynrandopolis or Reagania.

Of course, this bold incubation of White House-supported rightward thinking won't come cheap to the average American. The right's vision calls for curtailing environmental laws and labor laws, as well attacking a plaintiff's right to a day in court. It's all comes under the pretext of national emergency and the need to cut through red tape to relaunch civilization where civilization currently is somewhat wanting. In fact, to hear them talk about it all, it sounds like very reasonsble responses to an extraordinary situation. And I'm sure some deregulation provisions truly are reasonable.

But knowing the Bush administration and its reliance on red herrings, trojan horses and stealth campaigns, one must always look for ulterior motives. And this time, the right's not being very secretive about its "pro-business" agenda on the Gulf. Isn't it funny how "pro-business" often translates into anti-people?

Read The Wall Street Journal's story here:,,SB112674719461641356-43p2eR5Z9GaOg_Ub3CekoDfRpTY_20060915,00.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top

NPR also reported last week on how a national emergency isn't standing in the way of right-wing ideological opportunism. Listen to it here:

Quote of the Day

"I just wish Katrina had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else, just had flooded them out. And I wouldn't have rescued them."
-Bill O'Reilly

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Katrina and the airwaves

An anonymous writer accused me last week of using the anguish Hurricane Katrina to satisfy my own wicked ends. I thought I should share with said writer some of the things conservatives are saying. Of course, I'm sure they have only the most noble intentions when they say these things.

"I didn't think I could hate victims faster than the 9-11 victims."
- Glenn Beck, speaking on his syndicated radio show, expressing his hatred for Katrina's survivors.

"The price gouger makes sure his water goes to those who really need it. It was the price gouger's 'exploitation' that saved your child."
- Libertarian wackjob John Stossel, explaining that gouging desperate people is a virtue, on ABC's 20/20, Sept. 7

"We found we are unable somehow to defend ourselves against some of the attacks that are coming against us, either by terrorists or now by natural disaster? Could they be connected in some way?"
- Pat Robertson, speaking on The 700 Club, linking Katrina to our nation's legalization of abortion. And we wondered when someone would smear God's good name with Katrina.

"Did God have anything to do with Katrina?," people ask. My answer is, he allowed it and perhaps he allowed it to get our attention so that we don't delude ourselves into thinking that all we have to do is put things back the way they were and life will be normal again."
- Right-wing politico and convicted Watergate felon Charles Colson, speaking on his TV show BreakPoint.

"The government needs to build the levees. The government needs to make sure the levees are (said in the most snide tone possible)... The government. You're passing the buck all over the place and accepting all the money that the government's sending in to you, ah, and then something like this happens and then you start, you know, wringing your hands."
-Rush Limbaugh, rationalizing the Bush administration's decision to ax $71 million to fix and upgrade New Orleans' sagging levee system.

Thanks to David Brock's Media Matters website for letting me steal the above quotes.

So, how well is the right-wing spin machine doing these days, in spite of its best Mephistopholean efforts?

That's President Bush's overall approval rating, versus a 59% disapproval, according to the latest Zogby poll. He gets a whopping big 36% approval on his handling of Hurricane Katrina. According to the poll, if Bush ran today, he would lose to every recent president as far back as Jimmy Carter. (He would still beat John Kerry, however.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Mail Day

We had two different responses to my posting on Hurricane Katrina with widely divergent opinions.

An anonymous writer said this:

What an incredibly mean spirited petty lump of hogwash, South Mouth. You really need to search your soul, this is beneath you. Its obvious that you ARE politicizing this. Saying that you aren't, doesn't make it so. You hate Bush, and its crystal clear from all of your post that you will find some angle to demonize him in everything he does.

And I guess that's what it all comes down to - your hatrid of Bush. Your mad because you hate Bush, and because you hate him, you don't trust him, and because you don't trust him, you assume he does every evil thing possible. In this case you assume he's sitting around twiddling his thumbs, laughing at the little people. In other cases, you assume he had knowledge of the lack of WMD that nobody else in the world has, and lied.

OK, Anonymous, at your request, I've searched my soul. I must say I feel pretty good about everything I said. Yes, Anonymous, I hate President Bush because of his agenda to exclusively serve large corporations, the wealthy and the religious right to the exclusion and opposition of everyone else. You and your right-wing friends spewed malevolence and black-hearted meanness for eight years during the Clinton administration, and now you're outraged that someone would say anything negative about the president you now worship?At least my dislike for Bush stems from actual policy and matters of substance. The right's hatred of Clinton was personal and vindictive, based on nothing of substance (Just look at the lies and fake scandals that were invented to fuel this hatred. Anyone remember "troopergate" or Jerry Falwell's Clinton Chronicles?). Frankly, I think Bush's personal character is every bit as weak and loathesome as Clinton's, but I choose to focus on his actions as president.

As for Bush's response to Katrina, thousands of people are needlessly dead because hardly anyone came to help, at least not for four days. We should have had tens of thousands of troops on the way within 24 hours. Apparently, we can invade and occupy a foreign country, but we can't respond in a timely manner to a hurricane on our own soil. Bush is commander in chief, and if this isn't a national security issue, I don't know what is.

Another writer had this to say:

Although I don't want to politicize a serious situation in New Orleans, I don't want to hear it from my conservative friends criticizing the politicizing this catastrophe also. Remember, there were some conservative voices who blamed 9-11 on the Liberal state of our country. If I hear one of God's so-called pundits blame this as God's revenge on a licentious, morally corrupt society, I will personally hunt them down and shoot them myself.

Fortunately, I've not heard the God's revenge explanation so far. However, a friend pretty quickly forwarded a release from the ultra-right Newsmax, charging that hardly any other nation stepped forward to help us. As it turns out, plenty of countries have indeed offered help, but the Bush administration has turned much of it down. Apparently, I'm not allowed to criticize Bush's four-day delay in sending troops to help, but some folks on the radical right get to use this hurricane as a forum to advance what seems to be their growing hatred of every other nation on the planet.

Equal time for James Dobson

A few weeks back, I wrote a posting to criticize the two Justice Weekend events sponsored by some folks on the religious right, including James Dobson, calling for a Supreme Court that better serves their interests. I wrote Focus on the Family after reading a press release praising Tom Delay as a friend to their cause. I asked them whether it really served their cause to cozy up to a man who has been linked to several ethics scandals. Dobson's folks had this to say:

It was good of you to share your reaction to CitizenLink’s article titled “DeLay to Attend Justice Sunday II.” In response, we must point out that there is nothing untrue about Bruce Hausknecht’s characterization of Representative Tom DeLay. Indeed, the House Majority Leader has “consistently and courageously carried the banner for the American people in the fight to rein in our out-of-control judiciary.” It should be obvious that positive remarks of this nature shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of any *alleged* ethics violations on the part of Representative DeLay.

Thanks again for writing. Grace and peace to you!

Alexander Mackenzie
Focus on the Family Action

Let me say, I thought this was a very gracious reply to what may not have been the most gracious e-mail from The Mouth. Mackenzie, however, chose not to directly answer why Focus on the Family chose to entangle itself with a scumbag like Delay. Let me quote what I once heard from a fellow teacher: "What we don't condemn, we condone."

Friday, September 02, 2005


Bush to N.O.: "Drop dead."

You've probably been just like me these past five days, eyes glued to the television, ears fastened to the radio, unable to really comprehend the news from New Orleans and the Mississippi coast. Could it really be? An American metro area of over a million people laid to waste, almost abandandoned and uninhabitable? People left behind forced to live as animals as the subhumans among them have ravaged the streets, taking anything they can get their hands on and shooting anything that moves. And then the stories of thousands forgotten and forsaken, the sun beating down on them and water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

For four days they've waited at the convention center, and no one has come to help until today. Consider that throughout the city, people have been so isolated in their despair, they haven't a clue what's going on anywhere. You and I know infinitely more about what's happening in their own city than they do. They must think the world has ended. And for all the help they've gotten, it might as well have.

A woman is photographed by the shrouded cancer-ridden body of her husband, who suffocated after running out of the oxygen he needed. A boy of about 10 or 11 among the throngs at the convention center telling reporters that he had passed out earlier from the heat. An old man joining looters at a Walgreen's, expressing regret that he's been reduced to this. His plunder? A box of Depends for his incontinence.

And you've probably watched all this with that same awful feeling in your gut that you felt on Sept. 11. You sure never thought you'd feel this way four years later, if ever again in your life, certainly not by anything on the news. At least on Sept. 11, there were uplifting stories about humans helping humans. This time there seems to be little but ugliness in what pundit David Brooks referred to on this evening's News Hour as the "anti-9/11."

The whole sad spectacle, the struggle for human survival, plays out as we sit in our living rooms like a bad network miniseries. Just picture Christine Lahti trying to fight her way out of hurricane-ravaged city against all sorts of perils, both human and natural.

And toward the end of this third-rate production, President Bush comes swaggering into the city with his entourage, letting us know that everything would be OK now. Four days after the dreaded Big One finally hits New Orleans our president arrives accompanied by the first real convoy of National Guard troops, not just the skeleton crew we've seen working valiantly but futilely.

"I'm not going to foget what I've seen," Bush says.

Isn't that nice? Never mind the people killed in the hurricane. We have perhaps thousnds who have died of dehydration and exposure, as well as goodness knows what, and all because nobody showed up to help. But at least Bush feels really bad about this whole mess.

"The results are not enough," Bush said, laughably understating the response.

I know what some of my critics might be thinking. I'm shamelessly exploiting this catastrophe for the sake of a few political points. But that's not it at all. What I'm expressing is pure rage. Plenty of Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, have expressed their own outrage over how badly President Bush responded to this mess. There should have been 50,000 troops down there by now. They should have been rolling in within hours after the storm. Of course the question will be increasingly asked in coming days whether the ongoing commitment to Iraq has affected the military's ability to provide the assistance really needed on the Gulf Coast.

There's also a larger, more disturbing side to this pathetic response from Washington, a true slap in the face compared with the hundreds of billions of dollars thrown at Iraq and for tax cuts for the wealthy. This sad situation appears to be the logical end result in an ongoing 30-year attack on our government and its ability to help average Americans or even (Gasp!) the poor. Government is evil, we've been told. It's our enemy. And we shouldn't rely on the government's help anyway. Right?

I know that nobody of any political persuasion would wish the suffering of the last few days on anyone. And I also know that everyone across the ideological spectrum would have preferred a more decisive response. But when we continue to shrink government to the size that we can drag it into the bathtub and drown it, as Grover Norquist put it, should we be surprised that this is all our government can do for us?

News from New Orleans
Since Sunday night, I've been keeping a close watch on the New Orleans Times-Picayune website. The staff had to evacuate the newspaper's building, and the paper was published only as a blog from Tuesday until today, when it appears to have again come out in paper. To read those blog postings with all their drama and pathos is truly heartbreaking. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching part was to read postings by people trapped in their homes:

From the files of the Peter Principle
I don't know if FEMA Director Michael Brown, whom President Bush praised today as doing a swell job, is a big liar or if he is so incredibly incompetent that he hasn't a clue what's happening in New Orleans, but CNN juxtaposes his outrageously rosy statements with the observations of people who actually are on the scene:

Wonder what Uncle Sam was doing to stave off this catastrophe? You can read about it in this story in an obscure New Orleans business journal from last June:

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