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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Religion, Inc.

The unraveling of the Bush Administration should now make very clear what was hidden (not all that well, frankly) behind the facade of Karl and Co. The Democratic Party is a distant second to the Grand Ol' Panderers in terms of allegiances to special interests. And the no special interest holds the GOP in thrall more than that far-right pressure group, the Theocons.

And the questionable morality of the Religious Right has never been more thoroughly exposed. This is a nation fighting a war predicated on a lie (and whose leaders lied to perpetuate that lie). We are a nation where the rift between rich and poor was washed into the open by floodwaters in New Orleans. We are a nation where health care costs are soaring and its elected officials seek to balance the budget by cutting food stamps and health care benefits for the very people washed out of their homes.

But what has the Theocons in high dundgeon? What are the so-called arbiters of our morality irked about? That Harriet Miers, a crony appointment by a phony moralist was not willing to openly pledge fealty to their narrow causes on the Theocon altar.

The moral leadership exemplified by James Dobson and Pat Robertson and their ilk has said not one word about the carnage in Iraq (a war Islam certainly sees as a religious one). They have been silent about the lies upon which our leaders based this crusade and the are silent still about the lies used to hide the fact that the amoral Bush administration would risk the life of a CIA agent to win its political fight.

They have been silent about the squalor and suffering exposed by Katrina -- the stark reality of Two Americas that John Edwards spoke about last year to the mocking derision of our moral leaders. They have been silent when Congress opted to save fat cat tax cuts by cutting living wages and food stamps and health care for the poor left homeless by a storm whose force was magnified by government incompetence -- both in building effective levees, then failing to respond to the threat widely broadcast over every public airwave.

They have been silent when one of their own -- Tom "The Exterminator" DeLay was indicted for soliciting corporate contributions to rig elections. They are silent still as Scooter is indicted for lying to coverup the fact his boss, Darth Cheney, sought to out an undercover operative to gain revenge for her husband's audacity in saying the emperor had no clothes.

But they are loud and clear that they must have a Supreme Court justice who will do their narrow "moral" bidding that says government should get out of the boardroom and into the bedroom. Unless W names a justice who will undermine personal liberties favored by a majority of he country, they will bring their wrath (and the wrath of God) down on him.

This narrow special interest group has controlled the nation's agenda far more than any labor cabal that supposedly holds the hearts and minds of the Democratic Party. It's time to expose them for what they are, narrow-minded, vindictive, hate-filled zealots who will not allow anyone or anything to stand in their way of created the Theocratic States of America, a fundamentalist state as rigid and dictatorial as those we are supposedly fighting to oppose in the rest of the world.

What were they smoking?

Back after a short hiatus and some quick catching up...
  • David Tuerck of the Beacon Hill Institute is the last supply sider standing. Now we know why: he believes in fantasies. And liberals are obviously responsible for the rain, the Red Sox losing and bad movies.
  • Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty, D-Chelsea. Gutting a drunken driving bill, then heading to Europe during the last three weeks of a legislative session already being criticized for featuring a listless House that likes to party too much.
  • Sean Healey. You expect us to believe Pride's Crossing is a blighted neighborhood. Decadent, maybe.
  • I. Lewis Libby. Never trust a grown man named Scooter.
  • Judy Miller. If you want a classic example of everything that is wrong with journalism today, look no further. Firing is too good.
  • Any Republican who tellks you lying to a grand jury is a technical violation not worth wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars over. I can give you 72 million reasons why, to put it delicately, they are wrong.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

One Nation Under God...

... with sectarian strife for all.

All the sturm und drang over the Miers nomination and how her evangelical Christian beliefs are adequate qualifications for the Supreme Court prompted me to go back and take a look at the First Amendment.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

So far so good. Nothing that says she should be excluded (as Theocons I'm sure would loudly argue). And while I think the idea of a "religious seat" is a bit much there has been the need for a "Jewish seat" for about 40 years and a "black seat" for about as long and there was disappointment that W did not create an "Hispanic seat" so I will let that one go.

But being the liberal I am, searching for diversity, since we already has several Christian denominations on the court, how about a Muslim? Or a Hindu? Or a Zoroastrian?

The Washington Post takes a good look at the issue -- or should I say the double standard -- as it has evolved from Roberts to Miers. One judge with a record, albeit sparse, and the Theocons thunder religion is irrelevant. One lawyer with an even sparser record and everyone from W on down proclaim her religion is a key to her soul.

That should make it fair game for confirmation hearings and that will be ugly.

But more than that, I am troubled by the Theocratic read on the establishing clause. My understanding of "free exercise" is that I should be allowed to do and believe as I choose. Evangelical Christianity, in direct contradiction, is based on the concept of spreading the word of their chosen savior with the goal of turning other people to their views.

Under the Constitution, they are free to do that. And I am free to refuse to answer the door when Jehovah's Witnesses ring my doorbell or someone tries to sticker a flier in my face about Scientology.

What is different about the Theocratic movement is its goal to of violating the first clause: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

There's an argument that Congress is already an arm of the evangelical movement with the likes of Tom DeLay and Bill Frist and those other politicians who answer to the gods in Virginia Beach (Pat Roberston) and Colorado Springs (James Dobson). But again, these folks have been elected -- even if it is only by the folks of individual congressional districts or half the voters of any particular Red State,

What happens when the evangelical movement takes control of the Supreme Court and begins to impose its religious agenda on the nation? Where is the brake provided by our constitutional checks and balances, to the tyranny of the minority? Is a Supreme Court guided by theocratic principles going to declare itself unconstitutional?

We are heading to the day where the master becomes the student. The Iraqi constitution up for a vote this weekend, which W once touted as a model of democracy, clearly establishes Islam as the state religion, automatically affording second class status to any "infidel."

Osama must be proud of George's handiwork in creating a religious-based governing document and rooting for him to pull off a similar triumph in the Theocratic States of America.

And maybe we should bring true religious diversity to the Supreme Court -- how about Tom Cruise?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mitt has a clue - Not!

For one fleeting moment, it seemed as the Governor of the United States, er, Massachusetts, had a glimmer of clue.

Speaking to a GOP gathering in North Carolina, Mitt warned his assembled audience about the dangers of theocracy.

"Mitt, you've been reading this blog and I've made you see the light," I thought.

Never mind. One man's Christian fundamentalist theocracy is not another man's fundamentalist Islamic theocracy. If Mitt sticks around I'm sure we'll see a budding form of Mormon Sharia Law.

Oh well.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Liberal media?

One of the best ways to see how the media is NOT liberal is to take a look at its business practices.

The ultimate read is Ben Bagdikian's frequently updated look at The Media Monopoly (at latest count five corporations (Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) own most of the newspapers, magazines, books, radio and TV stations, and movie studios of the United States).

But the New York Times takes a pretty good look at the state of affairs in newspapers today and sheds a little light on a dirty secret -- industry profit margins. (Little because the reference is buried deep in Kit Seelye's story.)

Yes, there are real problems on the industry's doorstep because of the decline in traditional advertising and the soaring cost of old technology.

But here is the blunt truth: The Times, which owns the Boston Globe; Knight-Ridder, which runs the Philadelphia Inquirer; and the Tribune Co., which owns the LA Times, are putting newspaper jobs on the chopping block because the corporate leaders are having a hard time meeting the 20 percent margins expected by Wall Street. Gannett has been doing this for years too. Name a top-drawer Gannett paper?

None of this is new. It doesn't get covered by newspapers (who like to think that no one is interested in "inside baseball"). But it is starting to reach a more critical mass because cuts are starting to make a difference in the quality of the papers -- and because the web is a growing force in news.

The Globe and Inquirer are good examples. Previous rounds of cuts (achieved in large measure by buy-out deals) has decimated some sections of the paper and the rebuilding process has been slow. The Health/Science section, for example, lost top performers like Larry Tye, Richard Saltus, David Chandler and Judy Foreman to buyouts several years ago. The new blood, while talented, cannot replace that level of institutional memory and beat knowledge.

While I don't see it anywhere near as often, the Inquirer, once a formidable player under Gene Roberts, is a sorry shell of itself.

The Globe compounds its problems because, unlike the Times and the Washington Post, it has failed to embrace the concept of a universal news desk, combining print and online staffs to deliver round-the-clock reports from their best staff. The Globe's inability to take advantage of the web's vast platform to deliver depth to their reporting is sad.

One small example: how much effort would it take for a newspaper that prided itself on being a paper of record on Massachusetts government, to keep online tabs of the campaign finance accounts and voting records of the Legislature or a pull tighter leash on the rhetoric versus reality of Mitt's promises?

A liberal media, which by definition of the Theocons is a crusading, biased army of lefty zealots, is an impossibility in a business operated by a cartel that sacrifices news hole for shareholder return and discourages the hard-headed, take no prisoners (on the right OR left) reporting that existed once upon time.

Newsprint may indeed eventually be good only for fishwrap. But the technology is not there yet (or this) to make print mobile (there are some places laptops are not supposed to go!) By the time the technology does reach the point where newspaper journalism can be delivered anywhere, its audience is likely to have died out.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Truly scary stuff

Kudos to Brian MacQuarrie for a chilling profile of James Dobson, the head of Focus on the Family and one of the leading ayatollahs of the Theocons trying to destroy this country with the harsh rhetoric and intolerance for anyone who does not share their narrow views.

Here's the nut graf or, in this case, nut quote:

''There is no question that the beliefs of conservative Christians are under attack," Dobson told the Globe. ''Any conviction founded on religious faith is vilified; any stand on absolute truth is denigrated as old-fashioned at best, or reminiscent of the Taliban at worst; any view out of lockstep with the left's agenda is met with anything but tolerance and acceptance."

We can sidestep his assertion that abortion is the biggest Holocaust perpetrated by humankind. It's a crock that one expects from intolerant fundamentalists and does not deserve the dignity of a response.

What's more troubling is his ability to stand truth on its head. It is the conservative Theocons who are on the attack, denigrated and demeaning anyone and anything who do not agree with them. Religious faith is used to vilify anyone who does not march in lockstep with their narrow world view. Anyone who does not pledge fealty to the infallibility of the Theocon agenda is met with intolerance and contempt.

And our course there is the Taliban reference. Dr. Dobson should be a more astute observer. The Taliban are absolutist religious zealots determined to take us back to the Stone Age where women are treated with disdain, culture is dictated by the self-appointed religious ayatollahs. Sound familiar?

But hey, unlike the Taliban and Osama, he is getting rich by shearing the sheep who follow him.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Feverish activity

Better late than never. The Bush administration that launched a massive nationwide response to anthrax and smallpox threats that have not materialized, has finally recognized a more significant infectious disease threat. But in typical fashion, it looks to reward friends while using the wrong tools in the box.

Ask infectious disease specialists which poses a greater threat to Americans and there is no hesitation: influenza. And that was before the growing and apparently real concern that a new strain of avian flu hatched in Asia could be a trigger in a long overdue pandemic.

Years in the making, a new administration task force report declares we are woefully unprepared for a pandemic. As Homer Simpson would say "d'oh."

Let's step into the Wayback Machine, actually just a few short years ago. The time October 2001. Letters containing anthrax arrive at the offices of then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and then NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw. Other letters wind up at the editorial home of the National Enquirer and other publications.

What's happened since then? The perps are still on the loose (despite on global war on terrorism); an ill-conceived plan to produce enough antibiotics to counter the threat died virtually at birth -- larger from the indifference or hostility of the health care workers who ostensibly would benefit.

Same response to administration efforts to mobilize defenses against smallpox -- a deadly disease that has been virtually eradicated except for some sample left in the freezers of scientific labs in the US and Russia. Plans to create elaborate quarantine rings and mass inoculations faltered and eventually died.

Meanwhile, the real threat, plain 'ol influenza, was ignored. One of the handful of remaining producers had to discard its vaccine supply because of contamination in the manufacturing process.

Why so few manufacturers for a product in worldwide demand? It's not a wise business move for the pharmaceutical companies. If scientists guess wrong on the flu strain expected to cause problems any given year, the pharmas will be left with lots of worthless product to discard. And you know their margins are so thin....

So what's W's solution to the flu problem (which again, is not necessarily an avian flu problem)? Call up the military and bail out the pharmas. Have our soldiers enforce quarantines and protect the drug manufacturers from liability if the product harms people.

Trouble is: are quarantines the right answer in a world that has changed dramatically since 1918, the year of the last major pandemic? I'm sure troops could easily handle all the people who flew in from Asia in 1918.

And what about the pharmas? Yes, I know they are going to hard against it supplying Medicare prescriptions at unregulated prices. But what about that Bush philosophy of charity, of giving back to the common good?

Oh yeah, that only applies to people who can't afford to take care of themselves, not fat-cat multi-billion dollar cash machines.

Friday, October 07, 2005

There you go again

The one unfailing truism of the Bush administration is that whenever they are in trouble, the word terrorism enters the playbook. Katrina, Rita, Miers, soaring gasoline and heating fuel prices means it's time to play the terrorism card.

In his speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, W touted the administration's success in beating back 10 terrorist plots and repeated his newest claim that we need to stop terrorism in Iraq before it spreads to Cheyenne or Crawford. (Of course in the past the Bush Boys offered a reverse domino theory -- democracy in Iraq will result in democracy flourishing throughout the Mideast).

Let's assume for the sake of discussion that this claim unlike other administration claims regarding terrorism and WMD, is true. You want praise for doing your job? Congratulations on the "hard work" George and the fact you have finally learned to interpret intelligence better than Condi did in August 2001.

Let's also sidestep the strange situation where the New York City Police Department has different intelligence information than the Department of Homeland Security. You know, that federal agency that could not or did not get the word from the National Hurricane Center about a dangerous hurricane and learned that the New Orleans Convention Center was a shelter from CNN.

Rather, let's look at what one senior Bush administration official says was an effort to change the subject after a "lot of distractions." Yeah, I guess it is a distraction when FEMA and DHS could not do what it was charged to do -- prevent the loss of nearly 1,000 lives and the destruction of billions of dollars of property as an agency. Hey it was only a campaign promise and you know how that goes.

When times are rough, the Bush Administration makes like its favorite TV show "The Fear Factor." As George proclaimed the 10 terrorist plots I could not stop thinking of ol' "Tailgunner Joe," who exploited American fears by proclaimeing he had a list of 205 communists in the State Department.

The problem? There isn't an Edward R. Murrow today to expose the lies and distortions. Nor are there many people willing to remember the words of George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Nobel committee gives Bush the bird

There were two central villains during the Bush administration's weapons of mass destruction lie fest: Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei. The constant sniping at the credibility of the experts in chemical and nuclear weapons was a central component of the Bush deception.

Well, the Nobel Prize Committee has delivered its verdict: naming ElBaradei winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I'm sure George would say it's hard work.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Wobbly wagon wheels

Hey George, you might want to check the wheels on your wagon. They are looking a bit wobbly.

The Theocons are up in arms over this choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, the compassionate conservatives think money to pay for the rebuilding of the Gulf States should come from the people who suffered the most, the economy is showing new signs of stress from those cost of the oil bidness and Iraq is just as untamed a frontier as ever.

Unless the Theocons are staging one of the most elaborate shell games recorded, there is thunder rumbling up from the hard right on Miers and her lack of ideology purity. George Will, for gosh sakes, as true a journalistic soldier of the right as there has ever been, says this appointment is a sop to diversity!

Give credit for truth-speaking to Manuel Miranda: "The message of the meetings was the president consulted with 80 United States senators but didn't consult with the people who elected him," said Manuel A. Miranda, a former nominations counsel for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). George Bush, wholly owned subsidiary of the Theocons.

Then there's the nascent uprising about the fiscal conservatives who think the way to pay for the billions for Halliburton and Bechtel to clean up and rebuild the Gulf States should come from Medicaid and other programs to aid the poor -- you know those folks left behind in the Big Easy.

Some folks are even starting to notice that there is a bit of a double standard here: there has never been a call for "offsets" to handle the out-of-control costs for the "other" Gulf state -- Iraq.

And speaking of Iraq, where is all that cheap oil Rummy promised would flow right after they swept up the flower petals tossed at us upon our arrival as liberators?

Oil prices are going in one direction and the stock market is heading in another. We haven't even factored in the consequences of unaffordable heating oil and natural gas prices for the folks up North. Maybe the French have the right idea?

Meanwhile, back in Baghdad, it appears there is some concern that our newly democratic friends are learning their lessons too well. Holy Ohio, Batman!

Mitt, you need a tune-up

Thanks to the Massachusetts Budget Policy Center (Facts at a Glance: September Tax Collections in Perspective - Will There Be a Surplus in FY 2006?) for its analysis showing that the billion dollar surplus that Mitt Romney claimed as proof that Massachusetts is "hitting on all cylinders" is a lovely rose-colored scenario based on projections three months into a 12-month year.

The cardinal tenet of GOP-onomics is cut first and if you are running for national office, let someone else clean up the mess. And memo to Mitt: don't try to blame just the Legislature for this maneuvering. You signed the budget -- and you certainly didn't make a big deal of the structural assumptions.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Fool me three times

One of the more popular myths perpetrated by the Right is that they are straight-laced fiscal conservatives who count pennies and spend not one dime more than they have. Democrats are free-spending wastrels who booze the night away and never worry about the bills.

While W, Termite Tommy and Sen. William Frist, R-HCA, make a shambles of that theory on the federal level, we have a similar history here in the state people still love to call Taxachusetts, despite the reality.

And now comes Willard Mitt Romney, eager to assume the mantle of GOP fiscal leadership in Washington, to prove it yet again.

"It's pretty clear Massachusetts is back and hitting on all cylinders," Romney said in a rare visit to Beacon Hill. He needed the time in the Corner Office to declare that the Legislature should give it back and cut taxes down to the 5 percent level approved by voters.

Well couple of things you might have missed while you were in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa, Michigan, New York (hey, is he really Howard Dean?) Cities and towns are hurting here. Property taxes are up, municipal payrolls are down. And far from being pork heaven, municipal payrolls consist mainly of teachers, firefighters, police officers and public works employees. Higher taxes and fewer services is what we have, thanks to tax demagoguery going back two decades. (Sorry Barbara -- I like you personally but...)

Let's look at the facts. Massachusetts has schools struggling to improve their quality. Roads and highways are in abysmal shape (thanks to and including the Big Dig, that on-time, on-budget product of four GOP administrations). Skyrocketing energy costs are going to take a huge bite out of personal and governmental budgets this winter as many folks will be faced with the choice of heat or eat.

Let's also look at history, starting with 1986, when presidential politics helped create perhaps the worst fiscal crisis in state history. Actually, we need to go back even further, to 1975.

Michael Dukakis walked into office and found the presents left him by the Sargent administration. To deal with the mess, the Legislature passed a 7.5 percent income tax surcharge that came to be known as the Dukakis surtax. It was one of the factors in his loss to Ed King in 1978.

OK, back to 1986. The Massachusetts Miracle was going gangbusters, prompting one Dukakis III cabinet officer to exclaim, somewhat embarrassed, "we're rolling in it." Dukakis, on the presidential campaign trail, was tired of having the surtax hung around his neck and agreed to its repeal.

Fast forward two years. Massachusetts was on the leading edge of the next recession -- only it would eventually prove to be more of a depression here. The bottom was falling out, even as Dukakis was campaigning on "The Miracle." The slide was accelerated by a vast reduction in state revenue -- caused by surtax repeal. The answer to the problem was a boost in the state income tax to a temporary 6.25 percent. It gradually rolled back to 5.85 percent and aided in recovery.

It also aided in the election of William Weld, the first of four GOP governors who played games with the income tax. He asked and the Legislature agreed, to eliminate a new sales tax on services. But he left the income tax hike in place -- giving him the room he needed to let the state finally recover.

Fast forward again. Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci is looking for something to help him keep the job he inherited from Ambassador-wannabee Weld. Despite a series of targeted tax cuts (targeted to businesses, not citizens) that had trimmed state revenues, Cellucci needed a hook and the tax rollback was it. Of course it took some, shall we say temporizing...

"The governor said the public was told the income tax hikes of 1989 and 1990 were billed as temporary. Cellucci consistently gets this point half right. The 1989 hike, from 5 to 5.75 percent, came with a promise it would be rolled back. The 1990 hike from 5.75 to 6.25 percent entailed no such promise. Lowering the rate to 5.5 percent would fulfill lawmakers' 1989 pledge, and in any event, overall state taxes have now been lowered more since 1990 than they were raised during the budget crisis." (Source: Statehouse News Service, March 29, 1999 roundup. Subscription required.)

In 2000, Cellucci got his wish when voters approved a proposal to roll the income tax back to 5 percent. Months earlier, the tech bubble burst and Massachusetts was beginning to head back down thanks to sharp losses in tax revenues -- losses exacerbated by the income tax cut. We are now finally getting out of that hole.

By then Cellucci had taken off for Canada. The Legislature stepped in, halted the cuts so the levy now stands at 5.3 percent and put in place a sensible plan to let it slide back down to 5 percent as conditions warrant.

Which brings us to today. Romney is eyeing Washington and the income tax. Energy prices are through the roof and Congress is eyeing cuts in Medicaid and education to pay for the drunken sailor effort to atone for their Brownie-led "recovery" plan for Katrina. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Bully boy

One thing you always knew about bullies when you were growing up: they are loud, obnoxious and have a tendency to slink away when someone finally shows they are not afraid. I bet Termite Tommy DeLay swiped a lot of milk money when he was a kid, because his picture should go into the dictionary next to the word bully.

The test is coming soon because Ronnie Earle, the Austin prosecutor, showed he is not about to back down in the face of Congressman Bluster.

The funniest part of this show is watching the Theocons adopt the role of Clintonites. Earle is a biased prosecutor with a political agenda. The charges are a fraud and attack from the vast left-wing media conspiracy.

Couple of points: Earle is a political renegade, far from the political ideologue that is Ken Starr. And the vast left-wing conspiracy? That of course is a fiction of whole cloth that Theocons have been manufacturing for years. A conspiracy requires some sort of unified thinking and course of action. Does that sound like the Left?

Tommy, we know you don't have the decency to sit down, shut up and try to do the American thing, which is prove your case in a court of law and not in the court of public opinion. It will be lots of fun to watch you slink away with your tail tucked 'tween your legs.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Pit bull in Size 6 shoes

Well W has done something different. He listened to people he usually tunes out. Let's hope the joke is not on us.

What do we know about Harriet Miers, his latest Supreme Court nominee. She is a close Bush confidante, a fiercely loyal "pit bull in size 6 shoes." As with Vladimir Putin, W knows her heart and character. And just like Dick Cheney, when charged with finding the best candidate for the job, she looked into the mirror.

Harsh snap judgments? Perhaps. But what else do we know? Very little because W called the bluff of Arlen Specter and Pat Leahy and nominated someone who has never been a judge.

The profiles written so far suggest a non-ideologue. But we need more than the testimonials of friends and foes and the usual confirmation tap dance here. We need proof because we know this slate is not blank. Lifetime appointments require something stronger than "trust me" from a president who has frittered away his trust.

The track record of the Bush family in tapping unknowns is not comforting. Think J. Danforth Quayle.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Judy, Karl, Bob and Scooter

The strange saga of Judy Miller, the story she did not write and the Bush Boys who claim they didn't tell any secrets looks like it is finally heading to a climax. That will be a relief because we might finally be able to understand what the heck has been going on.

While I share the general disgust with her reporting on non-existent weapons of destruction while relying on a source with more tentacles than an octopus, I also respect her for the resolve to choose prison over revealing a source.

But then the question turns to why did she choose to spend several months in jail for a deal that was apparently available to her in August?

I'm not sure I buy Huffington's conspiracy theory that she was working hand-in-glove with the Scooter and the boys looking to discredit Joseph Wilson and his wife. But the unanswered question that really does beg an explanation is: why was she jailed for something she did not write?

And of course, the other answer we hope to get from the Fitzgerald investigation -- when it finally winds down -- is how can Bob Novak get away scot-free when he actually did out a spy?

For those of you who thought Karl Rove got away easy when John Roberts and Katrina changed the subject -- fear not. I'm betting that Karl and Lewis "Scooter" Libby will be prominently mentioned in the Fitzgerald report.

Without knowing the intricacies, all I can do is repeat the old line that a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. So the real question becomes will that be with mustard or mayo?

Take an act of kindness...

... and reimburse it. I'm surprised this one hasn't raised more hackles. So better getting to it late than not at all.

Those fabulous folks at FEMA think it is appropriate to spend federal taxpayer dollars to reimburse faith-based groups for the work they did and are doing after Katrina. So not only is it an act of kindness, it is an act of hard-headed business.

Forgive me for being old-fashioned but isn't kindness supposed to be its own reward? And yes, I know, some of us are also motivated by the chance to shave a few bucks off our own taxes with a charitable deduction.

While I disagree with the underlying message of many faith-based groups and I firmly believe that proselytizing should not accompany the blanket and the soup, I applaud the mission these groups take on it times of devastation. It was especially necessary during Katrina, where FEMA proved to be unconscionably inept.

But to reimburse groups for doing the mission they have raised charitable funds for -- and would do regardless of federal largesse -- in a word, stinks. And what a surprise that it has the fingerprints of Termite Tommy DeLay, whose avowed mission has been to starve the beast, subvert the Constitution and establish the Theocratic States of America.

Mark this moment well: I'm about to quote from a group that I probably would never agree with otherwise:

"Volunteer labor is just that: volunteer," said the Rev. Robert E. Reccord, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, told the Washington Post. "We would never ask the government to pay for it."

And if the American Red Cross is suggesting it is a faith-based group, I want my money back. I gave it to you because I thought your mission was relief, not messaging. You pay people to do the work you do. It is charitable in nature, but it is a business (do you give blood to hospitals for free?)

And more catching up after a hectic week...

The standard refrain from the "No Blame Game" crowd is to point fingers at the state and local governments. Again, there are valid complaints -- the failure to provide the buses to evacuate; the question of why evacuees were sent to places like the Superdome and Convention Center when there weren't supplies for them; the striking failure of the police to do their job, or worse yet, join in the lawlessness.

But it all comes back to the cornerstone promise of the Bush-Cheney 2004 team: elect us and we will keep you safe. This New York Times story suggests, yet again, that the fingers should be pointed at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

High water equipment was in Iraq (where's the high water there?) Insufficient numbers of soldiers and those who were deployed were not trained for the tasks they faced. And of course Washington seeing the picture in a completely different light from the folks on the ground.

This is not a slap at the Guard who responded (although I am not amused by the image of soldiers who don't know how to swim!) This is a slap at the commanders -- particularly those at the five-pointed building on the Potomac -- who are, were and will continue to be unable to deliver on their mission whether it is because of competence or the civilian chain of command.

And of course there is that chain of command that, despite one fiasco after another continues to remain in place. You're doin' a heckuva a job, Rummy.