Thursday, September 29, 2005

Judith Miller is out of the Pokey

Sing it for Judy....
'Cause now it's Judy's turn to laugh
Judy's turn to laugh, Judy's turn to laugh
'Cause Scooter's come back (Scooter's come back)...
And released her.

Yep, Judith Miller is among the walking. She is up and about and out of the pokey.

Even though she'd been released since 3:45 p.m., the story didn't break until almost four hours later.

The New York Times reports the Miller story was no more than just a crazy mix-up. Chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, released Judy way back last year and told her attorneys. But poor Judy was the last person to find out; somehow she never got the word.

So here Judy has been sitting in jail since July and I guess a phone call was too much to ask for; although the Times also reports that Libby finally got around it by "mid-September."

Well, let us rejoice. The fun begins. I can hardly wait to hear the rest of the yarn and witness the tale unfold. And let us not forget (after being reminded by media for about the millionth time), Judy never wrote about the story.

The Near-Abyss

If it were not for our court system of checks and balances, the Bush administration and congressional Republicans would have trampled over our legal rights as guaranteed by principles and standards of law over and over again.

Today, one brave federal judge has ruled against spurious White House claims that to release photos of prison abuse at Abu Ghraib “would aid al-Qaida recruitment, weaken the Afghan and Iraqi governments and incite riots against U.S. troops.”

Back in October 2003, The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit demanding release of pictures they said proved “systematic” abuse by U.S. soldiers. The military cried national security and hummed and hawed, and defied existing law.

In his ruling against the military, U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said, “[T]errorists in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven they ‘do not need pretexts for their barbarism’" and their request ran afoul of the Freedoms of Information Act, “which advances values important to our society, transparency and accountability in government."

In yet another administration court setback, a New York district judge held “former Attorney General John Ashcroft, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other top government officials” must answer a lawsuit brought by Muslim immigrants in the wake of 9/11.

Bush officials were seeking “special have the lawsuit dismissed without testimony.”

The New York Times reports the judge's ruling and initial allegations.

The lawsuit charges that, solely because of their race, religion or national origin, the two men were physically abused and deprived of due process while being detained for more than eight months in the harsh maximum-security unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

[T]he judge, John Gleeson, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, rejected those arguments, allowing the case to proceed - and opening the door to depositions of Mr. Ashcroft and the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, by lawyers for the two plaintiffs: Ehab Elmaghraby, an Egyptian immigrant who ran a restaurant in Times Square, and Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani immigrant whose Long Island customers knew him as "the cable guy."

Ay, gracias DIOS mio - thank you LORD - for the ACLU and our third branch of government.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

DeLay Indicted

Just exactly how much was the election of a few Texas legislators worth to you, sweet leader?

As of 12:46 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, CNN hot wired, “House Majority Leader Tom DeLay [was] indicted on one count of criminal conspiracy by Texas grand jury, according to Travis County clerk's office.”

The Associated Press also reported:

A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post.

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.


Wednesday’s indictment stems from a plan DeLay helped set in motion in 2001 to help Republicans win control of the Texas House in the 2002 elections for the first time since Reconstruction.

A state political action committee he created, Texans for a Republican Majority, was indicted earlier this month on charges of accepting corporate contributions for use in state legislative races. Texas law prohibits corporate money from being used to advocate the election or defeat of candidates; it is allowed only for administrative expenses.

With GOP control of the Texas legislature, DeLay then engineered a redistricting plan that enabled the GOP take six Texas seats in the U.S. House away from Democrats — including one lawmaker switching parties — in 2004 and build its majority in Congress.

Rumored at the helm for the Republican leadership post is Rep. David Dreier, R-CA.

Speaking of rumors, progressive blog, Raw Story, reported last summer Dreir is gay; and during the congressman's "2000 campaign [he] was living with his chief of staff."

Let's see. Law and order, gay-bashing Republicans now have the number two man in the House under indictment; majority leader in the Senate under investigation by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. And to carry the P/R fight, Ken Mehlman of "questionable life style" and Dreier.

The drip-drip-drip of bad news for Republicans and Bush is a political tsunami.


L A U R A !

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


This will be a quick post on the likelihood of Ben Affleck running against smiley-face George Jr. in Virginia's senate race next year and winning.

The Washington Post reports this morning Democratic operatives are mulling over Affleck's prospects of beating the “Aw shucks, I’m just a country boy” junior senator, George Allen (R).

But progressive bloggers are dead set against Affleck running. Too little air in the 50,000 gallon blimp, "a media sucking distraction" for the less glamorous Democratic senatorial candidates.

Before we discount the hunky actor, remember the Commonwealth has a rich history of electing high-profile names or their family members. With nominal political experience, both current senators were initially dismissed as lightweights cashing in on their celebrity status by kin.

Back in 1978, the senior senator of Virginia, John Warner, “won in the closest Senate election in Virginia to that date” with the handy help of his then wife, movie icon, Elizabeth Taylor.

And Junior’s claim to fame was his father, former Redskins and Hall of Fame coach, George Allen, Sr. Before winning a statewide race, Allen's political experience had been an unremarkable eight-year stint in the General Assembly, elected once to Congress, and then tossed out through redistricting.

Allen may well be a formidable political opponent with the perks of incumbency; but he does have a tendency to make some very dumb comments.

Not convinced? Here are his words about this, that and this. And remember his ties to Dubya are no longer a plus.

Besides, if Fred Thompson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Fred "Gopher-Love-Boat Grandy" and Sony Bozo, I mean Bono, can get elected, isn't wiping off yet another Republican smirk worth the risk of Affleck's giant sucking machine ?

As political spokesman with the Tim Kaine for Governor campaign said, "He'd certainly help get people to watch the debates!"

Monday, September 26, 2005


In the venerable tradition of late-night comedian David Letterman who likes to show Top 10 zany lists to delight viewers and audience, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has a pristine list of a different sort.

And whether you're a Democrat or Republican, much like as if you had a fifth cousin twice removed on the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted list, there is cause for distress. But a lot more so if your name is on the list or you’re a GOP partisan.

The list contains the names of the top 13 corrupt members in Congress. Drum roll, please…

#1 – Bill Frist - Well no surprise, the “eyes wide open blind trust” senator from Tennessee made top honors. Majority Leader Bill Frist is currently under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for selling shares from his family business at a most auspicious and rather suspicious timing.

#2 – Rick Santorum, principled senator from Pennsylvania - For scamming state taxpayers for his kid's tuition while living in Virginia. A benefit he was not entitled to reap.

#3 – Sen. Conrad Burns from Montana - For his sleazy “dealings with one-time super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff,” who is under investigation by a federal grand jury.

#4 - House Majority Whip Ray Blunt of Missouri - Accused of taking boondoggle trips and cozy relationships with lobbyists like “his wife and…son from a previous marriage.”

#5 – Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio - Same scoundrel who held feckless House meetings about voting problems in Ohio. Now under DOJ investigation under the same dark cloud of corruption as Abramoff.

#6 – Rep. Randy Cunningham of California - Another Republican with a benevolent stroke of good fortune. Cunningham sold his home to some chump, a “military contractor…with business before his committee" who then rolled the property into a loss by the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Qué estúpido, no...?

#7 – Rep. Tom Feeney – “[I]mplicated in voter fraud” by former software computer programmer and now under glare of congressional watchdogs for traveling abroad, courtesy of same indicted Abramoff.

#8 – Rep. Marylyn Musgrave of Colorado - Linked to “DeLay’s money machine” and illegal use of her “congressional office for campaign purposes."

#9 - Rep. Richard Pombo of California – Esteemed “chairman of House Resources Committee that oversees the U.S. Department of Interior." Gave “his wife and brother $357,325 in campaign funds in the past four years.” Pombo’s largesse toward family is boundless. Parents, as owners of a "wind ranch" in California, received “hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties from wind-power.”

#10 - Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona - Charged with financing portions of his 2002 campaign with “banned money, according to a Federal Election Commission audit."

And that boys and girls rounds out our Top 10 list; all we have time for. The remaining three members are Rep. Charles Taylor, R-NC., Rep. William Jefferson, D-LA., and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA.

Gotta wonder how Majority Leader Tom DeLay escaped the list. I guess his association with corruption goes without saying. Poster bug man of shameful gerrymandering and abuser of power, currently under investigation by a grand jury in Texas.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Media Ill Wind for Antiwar Activists

After reading several news stories about the antiwar rally this past weekend in Washington, DC, it was clear that the few Bush War supporters received ink space inordinately disproportionate to their meager total.

Nearly every article, from the Washington Post to the Associated Press, devoted one or two paragraphs to the war hounds, complete with extensive quotes. Yet, by most estimates, the anti-war rally tallied at least 150,000 protesters, maybe as many as 300,000, while only a few hundred military proponents — 0.1 percent of the anti-war marchers — showed up to support George W. "Bring it On" Bush.

Unfortunately, local officials no longer report total numbers for protests, but D.C Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said, "the protesters achieved the[ir] goal of 100,000 and probably exceeded it" When asked to clarify and a figure of 150,000 was cited, the Chief added, "That's as good a guess as any."

Now let's see, we've got 150,000-300,000 anti-war demonstrators against maybe 200-300 pro-Bush War advocates. Yet the media treated the two sides as if they were of comparable significance. They weren't; not by a long shot. Of course, I suppose we should give the Bush War supporters credit for having the cheek to call a news conference and somehow to convince media scribes to show up and take note. But why did the media fall for it?

Hey media guys, didn't you get the memo? Just ask Fox News: the Fairness Doctrine was killed by President Reagan nearly 20 years ago, so you are no longer obligated to give equal space to the other side. And by the way, just because there's one side on any given issue doesn't mean there's an equal "other side" — the overwhelming majority of scientists vs. the few (mainly paid flacks for the energy industry) global warming deniers, for instance.

Unfortunately, the Washington Post — the paper that prides itself as the one Congress reads — doesn't seem to have gotten this news. Thus, the Post wrote three protest stories in Section A for a total of 3,625 words. Of that total, I counted 783 words, or 21.6 percent devoted to the few war-supporting party crashers — 200 times disproportionate to the ratio of pro- and anti-war marchers.

Feeling a bit like the Rodney Dangerfield of protest marches, what does an activist need to do to get a little respect around Washington?

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia had it right when she told the crowd, "An ill wind blows against the US." A wind made all the worst by media indifference to readers by way of uneven and distorted reporting.

Although reporters from the Washington bureaus of many publications did manage to pen front page stories, way too much space was accorded to the non-story of the miniscule pro-war "counter-rally." I mean, seriously, I've been to block parties with more than a couple hundred people; why didn't the media put THAT on the front page?

By the way, a cursory review of articles on the weekend protests reveals that almost 14.0 percent of total coverage was devoted to Iraq War sympathizers, despite the fact that they represented just 0.1 percent of the total marchers.

Ohio's Plain Dealer appears to have been the worst transgressor, giving the "Abu Ghraib patriots" more than 35.0 percent of its total coverage! If a reader of the Plain Dealer were to measure newsworthiness by line-inch, and get their news from no other sources, they would probably come away with the mistaken notion that pro-Bush War activists came out in significant numbers to support their un-noble cause. But that would not be true, merely a result of the media ill wind at work.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Eyes Wide Open Blind Trust

Once again, we may have been duped. The blind trust of Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., may not have been so blind after all.

For years, the senator has repeatedly assured a trustful nation that there was nothing unseemly about owning stock worth $7 million to $35 million. He was unaware of how the money was invested and what stocks he owned.

And throughout the 90s, the senator affirmed there was no conflict of interest, even as he voted to protect his family business—“a nationwide hospital chain”—by throwing fast curves at President Clinton's patients' bill of rights, eventually passed by a Democratic-led Senate, but killed by the GOP House.

Only two years ago ago when questioned about possible conflicts of interest, Frist looked straight into the eye of television cameras and said, “I think really for our viewers it should be understood that I put this into a blind trust.” This being shares from HCA Inc., a for-profit hospital management company started by Frist's father, older brother and former executive of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Jack Massey.

"I have no control," he declared. "It is illegal right now for me to know what the composition of those trusts are. So I have no idea.

But it seems yet another Republican leader might have "disassembled," you know Bushism for lied. The Associated Press and ABC now report that “[d]ocuments filed with the Senate showed that just two weeks before those comments, the trustee of the senator's trust...wrote to Frist that HCA stock [had been] contributed to the trust...valued at $15,000 and $50,000."

Frist is presently under fresh scrutiny. The senator had the divine good fortune of selling his HCA shares before they plummeted by 9 percent, a tidy savings to the good doctor of as much as $630,000 to over $3.3 million!

Sha-ZAM, why Martha Stewart went to prison for a whole lot less, a mere pittance of $50,000.

But before Democratic partisans try to ride a ripple into a storm wave of insider trading, Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Frist assures us that "[h]is only objective in selling the stock was to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest."

See how simple that was...

The benevolent timing, she says, is purely a stroke of good luck. "[H]e had no way of knowing -- under the rules of the blind trusts -- how quickly the stock would be sold."

But inquiring minds along with the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission want to know if the fact "top executives inside the company" sold their stock just as they reached their high point last summer was just another dumb coincidence or if something more synister was at play.

With Rove, DeLay, Ney, Abramoff, Haft, Fletcher, and countless others, a quote from Marshall Wittman, former director at the Hudson Institute, a "hard-right activist think tank" in The Associated Press sums up the problem with Republican leaders quite fittingly.

The overall problem the Republican Party has is it is increasingly looking like Tammany Hall...An odor of sleaziness is enveloping the Republicans and seeping into the administration.

For the history-challenged readers, Wittman was comparing the party of Lincoln to party bosses in New York City during the 1800s who pilfered public funds and are forever associated with stinky corruption.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Virginia Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs Endorses Tim Kaine for Governor

Virginia Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs, with over 3,000 law enforcement members, honored Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia with a recent endorsement.

Understanding that to fight crime takes more than catchy slogans and parsing fitting laws to gain headlines, Kaine believes to wage war you should fund initiatives advanced by law enforcement officers; and in an interview with VCOP, Kaine laid bare for constituents why he is the best man to be Virginia's next governor.

The would-be governor told the association he believes the best way to fight crime is to reward crime fighters; and to that end, Kaine supports increasing retirement benefits for state and local police officers.

He said he will work to protect the "Line of Duty Act" that guarantees benefits to families of “fallen police and firefighters.” Recently, the Republican led legislation tried to reduce their benefit package.

Kaine also expressed support for state tax cuts to offset added cost of health insurance for retired public safety officers who do not yet qualify for Medicare. When local and state officers retire, benefits immediately stop; yet too often retired officials have preexisting health conditions that help raise the cost of their health insurance premiums.

Public safety professionals should not have to wait in long check-out lines to lobby for a share of what rightfully belongs to them; and Kaine understands this basic principle. Too often, the happy corporate-welfare crowd in Richmond is insensitive to the plight of the very people entrusted to protect the public.

Tim Kaine is a public servant who recognizes the critical role of first-responders; and how vital their work is to communities. For Kaine, no catchphrases and tired memes with worn out promises rarely kept. Only honest dialogue and a pledge to do the hard work that leads Virginia forward.

A chief component Kaine wishes voters to ask in a few months is the bottom line, summed up with a question he asked during the recent debate with Kilgore; an exchange televised only by local cable, without Independent Republican third-party candidate Russ Potts, as demanded by Kilgore.

The question that has to be asked … is Virginia better off as a state after four years of the Warner-Kaine administration?” Kaine said. “Do you want this state to go forward, or do you want it to go backward?

With Kaine as governor, Virginians can look forward to fiscal moderation with priorities that make sense; an independent voice with commitments to public safety, state education, road funding, health care and civil liberties; sensible governance that does not bankrupt the future nor hamper present prospects.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Did Bush fall off the Wagon?

The National Enquirer, the same tabloid who broke the Gary Hart "Monkey Business" story nearly 20 years ago, claims Bush is back to drinking.

Lest anyone go bezerk and traipse off to examine every minutia under a microscope to learn if each individual atom in the story passes muster, same as right-wing bloggers and mainstream media did with the Bush AWOL story last summer, let us concede here and now that dialogue attributed to Bush may or may not be exactly as reported.

Indeed, the underlying details may be faulty; that is, whether the root cause(s) were Katrina, falling poll numbers, the Iraqi War, Roberts confirmation hearing, a fight with Rove, Cheney, wife, dog, a combination of one or more, whatever or whomever; in the aggregate, the scoops on the over-all poop are unimportant.

The overarching arc that Bush is off the wagon is what is most newsworthy, for this highlights to the world that our leader, the most powerful man on the globe, hangs by the thin threat of sobriety from a psychological, physiological and emotional meltdown.

Our president, an admitted alcoholic, has steadfastly refused help by way of 12-step program; he can do it alone, with the help of Jesus, of course.

Not to dismiss divine help in matters of recovery, Bush’s methodology could work only if he faithfully submits his addiction and will to a Higher Power on a daily basis with a humble heart.

Oh but how he must thirst! The lofty cup from which Bush drinks is not nearly tall enough for such a person who can't concede even the most minute mistake, weakness or flaw.

The addict’s mind is a lying one; it whispers invincibility; one little drink or one tiny snort won't hurt anything. But to bedevil temptation and stay sober, druggies and drunks are counseled to rebuke thoughts of old past jaunts.

So when Bush visited New Orleans and harkened back to the good 'ol days of drinking fun, it didn't take an army of hardened counselors to be very afraid for one's country. The signs of relapse were as bright as the night sky in Alaska during mid-summer when Bush said:

I believe the town where I used to come -- from Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself -- occasionally too much...

(LAUGHTER) (wink-WINK) (ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, HAH)

Well dear president, past drunkalogues are no laughing matter. Just ask any family member of a substance abuser; the process of recovery is to ask for forgiveness and the will to change, not give glory to days of past chaos.

Now here are a few things to look for when trying to discriminate whether or not our leader has backslided.

1. Has Bush pushed aside former close aides? Are you listening Rumsfeld? Rove? Cheney? If you want to remain his pal, guess what? You might have to overlook his ever-rising number of "slips."

2. Spanking new friends with a taste for scotch. Like watchful parents of teens, Laura and the country must be on lookout for new “friends” from a different clan or cabal who like the night life. (Yes, that includes secret service agents and White House interns.)

3. Is Laura and family keeping Bush on a shorter leash? Do they now always travel with the president on each trip he takes?

4. Is Bush’s schedule erratic, subject to change at a moment’s notice? Or no longer posted? Are there unexplained lapses of time? Unexplained no-shows?

5. Is there even more isolation from the media, especially after the sun sets? Any slurring speech late at night or early mornings? Any reek of alcohol on his clothing or pores?

If the answer to any question is yes, then our president could become as irrational and wacky as Kim Jung II, the nut job from North Korea and decide to go mano-a-mano with the rest of the world, as he once tried to do with his father. Let's hope Poppy, "The Enforcer, "Laura-Steady-as-She-Goes," "Turdblossom, or "Big Time" can stop "Bushie, the Bike Guy," from wheeling and rolling us into the abyss.

Party-on w0rd, Chew thinking man!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

There is a buzz on the Internet that Roberts is not the Taliban Christian he's been portrayed by the left and right; and religious wingnuts are none too happy about it at all.

Any fair minded person who watched Roberts testify in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings had to come away with a sense of Roberts' integrity in matters of law; and that unlike his portrayal, Roberts is no strict constructionist determined to roll back 20th century constitutional law.

On the issue of congressional authority to redress past wrongs under the equal protection clause of the Constitution, Roberts said he had no problem" with the Voting Rights Act.

On the issue of precedent and right to privacy, Roberts said he would not overturn decisions simply because he might think they were initially wrongly decided. The two prong question for him is whether a precedent has now "created settled expectations that should not be disrupted" or the "bases of the precedent has [already] been eroded."

Roberts testified that he is no ideologue. And to the extent "his[ed] him to be to the left of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas," Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ben Nelson (D-NE.) have agreed to confirm him as Chief Supreme Court Justice.

Will Roberts vote with the liberal wing of the Court all of the time? Undoubtedly no. But will he swing with the right wing faction? Answers on the third day of Senate hearings lead one to hope the answer is also no.

When asked by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) what of his "life experiences [could] the powerless, the disenfranchised, minorities and others see...that would lead them to believe that they would have a fighting chance in your court?" Roberts responded with integrity and ardor and quite possibly swayed more than a few Democratic votes.

Well, Senator, I think there are many things that people could look to.
You said I had a comfortable life. I think that's a fair characterization. I had
a middle-class upbringing in Indiana...Comfortable, yes. But isolated in no
sense...I was privileged in the sense of having my parents and sisters
contributing to my upbringing and education. And I think people looking at my
life would see someone in that experience -- and, obviously, with limitations.

I wasn't raised in other places in the country and might have a
different perspective if I were. I wasn't raised in different circumstances and
would have different experiences if I were.

As you look at the Supreme Court, the people on there come from widely different backgrounds and experiences and I think that's a healthy thing.

But as far as someone going into court, and looking too see why they would expect to get a fair hearing from me, I think -- and I could answer this with respect to the court I'm on now...It's hard for me to imagine what their case is about, that I
haven't been on their side at some point in my career.

If it's somebody who's representing welfare recipients who have had their benefits cut off, I've done that.

If it's somebody who is representing a criminal defendant who's facing a long sentence in prison, I've done that.

If it's a prosecutor who's doing his job to defend society's interest against criminals, I've been on the side of the prosecution.

If it's somebody who's representing environmental interests, environmentalists in the Supreme Court, I've done that.

If it's somebody who is representing the plaintiffs in an anti- trust case, I've been in that person's shoes.

I've done that.

If it's somebody representing a defendant in any trust case, I've done that as well. It's one of the, I think, great benefits of the opportunity I've had to practice law as I have is that it has not been a specialized practice. I've not just represented one side or the other. I've represented all of those interests.

And I think those people will know that I have had their perspective. I've been on the other side of the podium with a case just like theirs. And that should, I hope -- and I hope it does now -- encourage them that I will be fair and that I will decide the case according to law but I will have seen it from their perspective.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

An Evening in Poetry

Award winning Puerto Rican poet and writer Judith Ortiz Cofer celebrated National Heritage Hispanic Month at the annual George Mason Fall for the Book festival last Friday in Fairfax, Va.

Growing up in two cultures, Puerto Rico, her homeland and Patterson, New Jersey as well as rural Georgia, Cofer told an intimate crowd of 28 that she wove her “struggle for basic survival” and the answer to her incurable query, “Come se dice?” meaning “how do you say it?” into her own art form.

For Cofer, the metaphysical meaning that lurks in the mind of the “poet, the lunatic and the foe” gives license to “name the world” as they see it, which she did by way of books, short stories and poems.

With fiery black shoulder length hair and a tiny frame, made all the more bitty by her long printed pleated skirt, black pullover and podium too large for her stature, Cofer read her work.
And in blended tones of intensity and reeking in emotion with her ever-so slightly accented delivery, she expressed her bearing to others.

“Poetry for me is the discipline,” she confided. “It is my deep analysis,” a process of venturing in the realm of culture, language, and what it means to be Puerto Rican in a foreign land; and conjoining my two “tierras” by honoring both.

One overarching theme for Cofer is la lucha -- the struggle -- the exertion of both physical and mental energy to overcome life’s lot; and the battle the foreigner in each of us wages to bridle an alien world and make it our own.

She observed many famous poets die unknown; and worldly gain should not be a poet’s goal. Initially plagued by rejection letters from editors, with comments to not affix Spanish words into her poems, a style she refused to disown, she persevered. And eventually she notes, “Poetry saved me from a boring life,” delivering her a modicum of success.

But the Puerto Rican native was merely being humble; her writing career has earned her a plethora of literary awards, including the Best of the Year award by the American Library Association for An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio.

Students of poetry encounter her writings in educational anthologies. Her works are included in Best American Essays 1991, The Norton Book of Women's Lives, The Norton Introduction to Literature, The Norton Introduction to Poetry, The Heath Anthology of American Literature, The Pushcart Prize, and the O. Henry Prize Stories.

The commemoration of National Hispanic Heritage Month also gave would-be lyricists a chance to read their work. Earlier Cofer had counseled listeners to remain faithful to their truth when pursuing poetry.

Honest poetry is always true,” she remarked, even if it’s not factual.” The details are of no consequence, only the integrity and fidelity to ones artistic expression is of note.

Indeed, her advice comports with the eminent Romantic poet John Yeats whom she also quoted, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on Earth and all ye need to know.”

As the audience dispersed one could see how Cofer's tome cross cultural divides, although chuckles and giggles during punchlines in Spanish betrayed more than few in the crowd understood her native tongue; and for those who did not, Cofer kindly translated into the universal prose of her soul.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Separate and Unequal

Leave it to a Republican senator to come up with the heartless idea of segregating Katrina's children from other kids in school.

That's right, boys and girls, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, came up with the brilliant idea of placing hapless children, already traumatized by Katrina, in their very own little schools with their very own identity tags.

So let see, poor displaced children should be victimized twice over because....?

Oh yea, their personal safety of course. First by having them attend second-rate, makeshift schools, then by forcing the mark of the storm on their lunchboxes.

It all began with a fight. At Jones High School in Houston, a regular student threw a soda can at newly enrolled teens; and after all was said done, five kids were arrested.

Lest you mistakenly think this altercation is a common happenstance, "with over 40,00 displaced was the exception, not the rule," but just the pretext the gentle lady from Texas needed in the latest assault on the powerless by Republicans.

Federal law now prohibits schools from "educating homeless students separately from the general population or stigmatizing them with special identification cards or wristbands."

But Hutchison introduced a bill, supported by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would grant a waiver to Texas. Parents could no longer object to "children's placement in particular schools." And more inhumanely, the bill would also allow schools to issue "identification cards or other identifying insignia" for Katrina's heirs.

Ain’t life swell...?

Why it's only because their "top priority is keeping the kids from Louisiana in an environment that is safe, secure and familiar," so said Hutchison's fork tongued spokesperson. 'This is only a temporary waiver for the remainder of the school year."

Sure, and let's make them feel as unwelcome as possible so by next fall they'll be back in New Orleans.

Let's stop paying lip service to the children and start backing our words with action equal to our professed conviction. Why if Hutchison and Cornyn have their way, it's off to separate and unequal schools they go, same as brown and black kids did in Texas as recently as the 1980s, when the Justice Department finally had to step in.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Letter to Judith Miller

Oh Judy, a penny for your thoughts. Did Ambassador John Bolton’s recent visit trigger in your mind lyrics of a popular Rick James song between jailhouse videos of Ludacris, Diddy, Eminem and 50 Cents?

Yes Judy, you’re “a very kinky girl,” with a twisted sense of loyalty. “The kind of girl you read about…” but wish to be done with now.

But before everything ends, we know Bolton had ambition, temperament, design, power, instrumentality and passion for the Plame hatchet job; and his involvement has a definitive pitch of truth when measured against his actions this past summer.

Even you must must admit that Bolton acted more like a “made-man” in Bush’s La Cosa Nostra than humble nominee; and like the mob hit man who knows if he goes down he's taking the ocean liner of corruption down with him, he set about the business of getting office space, same as if he’d won confirmation, as the Senate raged about the pros and cons of his appointment.

Did you know Bolton was demanding "double the office space reserved within the State Department for the ambassador to United Nations,” even after he'd twice been filibustered by Senate Democrats, as the Washington Post reports?

And Judy, unlike his predecessors who’d managed with a modest office in Washington, Bolton was commanding “more space and a larger staff,” befitting a loyal mob captain. He wasn't about to hang around New York while "policy was being made in Washington." No siree, he was going to make sure he was the ground of both flooors.

Promises made; and more tellingly, promises kept. Bolton received a summer presidential recess appointment.

Speak and share your knowledge, Judy. It seems you may have liked “the boys in the [Bush] band” a tad too much. “Temptations sing!" Bolton was in the thick of it, as undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, was he not?

Your words could immediately release you from the bars of misplaced allegiance. Smite the miscreant who silently watches you languish in jail. Cut a deal with Fitzgerald and be done with this jarring song. And when Bolton comes-a-courting, tell him your toadying freaky days are over.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Roger Keith Coleman’s last words moments before the state of Virginia put him to death May 20, 1992.

An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight. When my innocence is proven, I hope Americans will realize the injustice of the death penalty as all other civilized countries have.

The following is an article published by the Quixote Center in Hyattsville, Maryland.


On May 20, 1992, the State of Virginia, with the acquiescence of the federal government, executed Roger Keith Coleman in the electric chair. New evidence, including evidence that another man committed the crime, failed to stop his execution. The state and federal governments failed to secure Coleman's right to a fair and impartial trial. A missed deadline barred appellate review and resulted in his execution.


Wanda McCoy was attacked in, or just outside, her home on March 10, 1981. She was then raped and murdered. There was little sign of a struggle and, as she seldom opened the door when she was home alone, it was assumed she had allowed her attacker to come into the house. Roger Coleman, her brother-in-law, had access to the house and immediately became a suspect. Coleman, who worked in a mine, had reported to work that night but had left when his shift was dismissed.

A fingerprint was found on the front screen door and a pry mark on the front door molding, and bloodstains inside the house. The victim had broken fingernails, cuts on the hands, and a dark, dusty substance on her body. The autopsy report recorded wounds to her chest and throat, but did not mention defensive wounds on her hands or a bruise on her arm. Limited forensic testing was done.

Salient Issues

Coleman had a well-documented list of his whereabouts on the night of the murder and several alibi witnesses who gave affidavits.

The state's own timeline of events the night of the murder suggested it was unlikely Coleman could have committed the murder.

Physical evidence from the crime scene – including soil on McCoy's hands, an unanalyzed fingerprint on the front screen door of her house, and a pry mark on a door molding – contradicted the prosecution's theory that the victim willingly allowed her murderer to enter her home, a theory used to convict Coleman. T

The prosecution claimed that there was little sign of a struggle. However, the victim had defensive wounds, including cuts on her hands, broken fingernails, and a bruise on her upper arm but the defense did not introduce this evidence.

Testing of semen did not rule out Coleman but later forensic opinions based on more sophisticated DNA testing indicated a second person may have participated in the crime.

At trial, the prosecution presented evidence given by a jailhouse informant who alleged Coleman had confessed to the crime. The informant was released from jail soon after testifying.Another man later stated that he had killed Wanda McCoy. This man had a history of violence and rape.

Coleman's chances to appeal his conviction in state and federal courts were restricted when his lawyers missed a deadline for filing his original appeal in state court by one day.

The Trial

There was intense pressure in the community for an arrest in the McCoy murder, and police were frustrated at the lack of evidence tying Coleman to the crime. Coleman had been convicted of attempted rape several years earlier despite his denial of involvement and having an alibi. He served almost two years in prison and was released with a record as a sex offender. This affected his trial for the McCoy murder. Furthermore, McCoy's husband had immediately named Coleman as a likely suspect because of his access to the McCoy household as Wanda's brother-in-law.

An expert for the state examined two hairs taken from the victim's body, compared them with Coleman's, and found they were consistent with his hair type. Coleman's attorney did not present effective challenges to this testimony. The state presented a seemingly impossible series of events between Coleman's arrival at the mine and the victim's husband's discovery of her body, but the prosecution was able to point out some uncertainties in testimony of alibi witnesses. Blood type testing did not rule Coleman out, nor did it show he had a role in the murder. A jailhouse informant claimed Coleman had confessed to him while Coleman was in the county jail awaiting trial. No other suspect was asked to provide hair or blood samples for comparison with those recovered from the victim's body. Roger Coleman was convicted and sentenced to death.

Appeals Confusion and disagreements about deadlines in the state courts led to a judge's order refusing the state habeas corpus petition. Coleman's lawyers had 30 days under Virginia law to file an appeal to the refusal. Their calculations were different than those of the state. They sent the appeal by regular, not certified mail, and it arrived after the 30-day deadline. Coleman's appeal was, therefore, dismissed without review. This ruling crippled Coleman's subsequent attempts to have his claims heard. The U.S. Supreme Court supported the state's position that the missed deadline precluded federal review of his habeas claims. Clemency was refused partly because of the certainty with which the courts refused the appeals. Before Coleman's scheduled execution, Governor Douglas Wilder agreed to grant clemency if Coleman passed a polygraph test. Coleman failed the test just hours before he was executed.


Roger Keith ColemanLUSION was executed despite compelling evidence of his innocence. Coleman's attorneys had made claims about a biased jury, ineffective assistance of counsel, and exculpatory evidence withheld by the state, all of which would have been constitutional violations.

The merits of these claims were never considered because his lawyers missed a deadline by one day. He was executed without full review. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun observed in his dissent, "one searches the majority's opinion in vain for any mention of Coleman's right to a criminal proceeding free from constitutional defect or his interest in finding a forum for his constitutional challenge to his conviction and sentence of death.

Present Situation

A Virginia court was asked in 2000 to order new DNA testing on physical evidence. An independent laboratory is still holding the samples, and the State of Virginia has demanded their return. Fearing that the state may never make appropriate use of the samples, the lab has refused to release them. A state court hearing denied Attorney General Jerry Kilgore's request to have DNA returned. Gov. Mark Warner has the authority to order the test but has refused to do so.

The president of Venezuela made a stinging indictment of U.S. foreign policy and its occupation of Iraq in a speech to the United Nations yesterday.

Calling the United States a "terrorist state" for invading Iraq without provocation, President Hugo Chavez called for world leaders to move U.N. headquarters from New York to ""an international city" in the southern hemisphere.

"There were never weapons of mass destruction but Iraq was bombed," he reminded them, "and over U.N. objections," the U.S. invaded and still occupies a sovereign nation.

It is a black eye to the world body for headquarters to be housed in a nation that defies the assembly's collective will, according to Chavez. Imperialistic designs in the Middle East should not be rewarded; and colossal economic inequities in emergent and poor countries cry out for solutions beyond U.S. dominated policies.

The heat between the two governments was recently raised to near boiling point when Pat Robertson suggested intelligence officials take Chavez out, with only tepid criticism from the White House.

Peppered with anti-US speech, the Venezuelan leader spoke to the assembly for more than his allotted five minutes; and when reminded, he rebuked the official and told his audience, "[I]f Bush could speak for 20 minutes, so could he."

Asked to explain his remarks after his speech, Chavez told reporters "that the United States was a 'terrorist state' because of its actions in Iraq, Robertson's assassination call and for harboring Luis Posada Carriles, who is wanted for the bombing of a Cuban airliner."

When Chavez finished his speech, the assembly gave him a thundering applause. Apparently many nations do not like American foreign policy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bloggers believe Bush took responsibility for Katrina because of sinking poll numbers. Although there is probably a sea of truth, the drip-drip-drip of recent damning news was as responsible for his almost-confession.

Until recently, FEMA was blamed; and its director, Michael Brown, paid for his incompetence with his job--a very first for a Bush administration official.

As late as Tuesday, Bush had every reason to hope the maelstrom would eventually simmer down; after all, boy genius Rove would surely come up with a plan.

But the levee of blame by the White House was overrun by the storm surge of a Knight Ridder story.

The newspaper group's Washington Bureau acquired a memo with condemning evidence of failure from higher-ups. The document shows the person with authority to declare Katrina a national disaster was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not the hapless Brown; and he didn't get around to it until three days after the storm hit.

Oops...looks like more washed up driftwood needs to be tossed ashore.

The White House refused to say why "Chertoff waited some 36 hours to declare Katrina" a national disaster; but mere questions certainly sent crisis management bells off.

So the jig was up; a story was coming; nothing else to do but fall on your sword and say you're sorry. The Knight-Ridder story came out the same day Bush apologized.

Our infallible leader told the nation on Sept. 13, "And to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

When Chertoff passed the buck to Brown the storm had already killed at least 11 people in Florida as a mere baby Category 1 and blasted the coast of Mississippi and Louisiana as a fatal Category 4 hurricane.

"It was a day of fear and destruction for Gulf Coast residents who faced Hurricane Katrina head-on in the path of the storm," cried the Houston Chronicle. "Shelters filled with fear and hope," was yet another byline.

For too many, the hope of survival met with cruel drowning. But let us thank the Maker. Our president finally takes responsibility, even if only "to the extent" he screwed up, which when you think about it, is ample plenty.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The administration is once again hampering journalists from doing their job. The fascist iron-hand of the browbeaters is eliminating the very freedom they espouse to love.

Just when you thought the matter was settled with government officials backing off from initial demands reporters not take pictures and acquiesced to CNN on Saturday, a story in the San Francisco Chronicle reports military officials are now the latest bullies in the war on terror on reporters.

The Chronicle described how “a man, wearing camouflage fatigues and a red beret” told the media that if they took pictures and wrote stories about recovery efforts, they would lose press credentials and be "kicked out of the state."

Sounds like a candidate for the Bolton school of diplomacy...

Imagine, now we have the army threatening journalists with loss of civil liberties for simply doing what our constitution specifically guarantees under the Bill of Rights.

"No photos. No stories," the military tyrant said. Are we living in a third-world country or a democracy…?

Perhaps they didn’t receive the memo from the White House about their about-turn and previous assurances in court by Keith Wyatt of FEMA, or maybe they got a more private note, telling them, “You’re doing a heck of a job...”

Below are partial transcripts of the hearing for chief justice nominee John Roberts in the Senate.

A headline from the Associated Press on the confirmation hearing read, "Roberts Dodges Specifics on Abortion."

Yep, Roberts did a whole lot of dodging; and the Republican chairman did a whole lot of scolding.

For your perusal...






SPECTER: We recognize that stare decisis embodies an important social policy that represents an element of continuity in law and is rooted in the psychological need to satisfy reasonable expectations.

ROBERTS: [T]he importance of settled expectations in the application of stare decisis is a very important consideration.

The principles of stare decisis look at a number of factors. Settled expectations is one of them, as you mentioned. Whether or not particular precedents have proven to be unworkable is another consideration on the other side -- whether the doctrinal bases of a decision had been eroded by subsequent developments.For example, if you have a case in which there are three precedents that lead and support that result and in the intervening period two of them have been overruled, that may be a basis for reconsidering the prior precedent.SPECTER: But there's no doctrinal basis erosion in Roe, is there?ROBERTS: Well, I feel the need to stay away from a discussion of particular cases. I'm happy to discuss the principles of stare decisis.

ROBERTS: Well, again, I think I should stay away from discussions of particular issues that are likely to come before the court again. And in the area of abortion, there are cases on the courts docket, of course. It is an issue that does come before the court.

SPECTER: Judge Roberts, in your confirmation hearing for the circuit court, your testimony read to this effect, and it's been widely quoted: Roe is the settled law of the land. Do you mean settled for you, settled only for your capacity as a circuit judge, or settled beyond that?

ROBERTS: Well, beyond that, it's settled as a precedent of the court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis. And those principles, applied in the Casey case, explain when cases should be revisited and when they should not. And it is settled as a precedent of the court, yes.

LEAHY: Let's go to the president's power as commander in chief of the armed forces. He certainly has that power under the Constitution. look back to the time when you were a lawyer in the Reagan White House.

You [wrote a] memo suggests that Congress is powerless to stop a president who is going to conduct an unauthorized war. I really find that extremely hard to follow. And I imagine most Americans would.I'll give you a hypothetical. Congress passes a law for all U.S. forces to be withdrawn from the territory of a foreign nation by a set date. The president vetoes the law. The Congress overrides that, sets into law, You must withdraw by a certain date.Now, is there any question in your mind that the president would be bound to faithfully execute that law?

ROBERTS: Well, Senator, I don't want to answer a particular hypothetical that could come.
before the court, but I'm happy to comment on the memorandum that you're discussing.

LEAHY: No, wait a minute. I mean, isn't this kind of hornbook law? I don't know of any cases coming before the court; I mean, this is kind of hornbook.The Congress says to the president, You got to get out, and pass a law which is either signed into law by the president or you override a presidential veto. Why wouldn't the president have to -- charged as he is under the Constitution to faithfully execute the law, why wouldn't he have to follow that law?

LEAHY: Does Congress, then, have the power to stop a war?ROBERTS: Congress certainly has the power of the purse. And that's the way, as you noted earlier, that Congress has typically exercised...

LEAHY: Yes, but we know, we did that in the Boland amendment. And the Reagan administration, as we found out in the sorry chapter of Iran-Contra, went around that, violated the law, worked with Iran, sold arms illegally to Iran -- I think that's one of the axis of evil today -- to continue the Contra war in Central America. So the power of the purse -- we've cut off money, but the wars sometimes keep going.Do we have the power to terminate a war? We have the power to declare war. Do we have the power to terminate war?ROBERTS: Senator, that's a question that I don't think can be answered in the abstract. You need to know the particular circumstances and exactly what the facts are and what the legislation would be like, because the argument on the other side -- and as a judge, I would obviously be in a position of considering both arguments, the argument for the legislature and the argument for the executive. The argument on the executive side will rely on authority as commander in chief and whatever authorities derive from that.

LEAHY: You said -- your answer is that you were just talking about the question of veterans' benefits...

ROBERTS: Well, Senator, I don't want to answer a particular hypothetical that could come before the court, but I'm happy to comment on the memorandum that you're discussing.


KENNEDY: In considering the issues raised by Brown, the court took a broad and real-life view of the question before it. It asked, Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though physical facilities and other tangible factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities?So do you agree with the court's conclusion that the segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race was unconstitutional?


KENNEDY: And do you believe that the court had the power to address segregation of public schools on the basis of the equal protection clause of the Constitution?


KENNEDY: I’m just trying to find out, on the Voting Rights Act, whether you have any problem at all and trouble at all in terms of the constitutionality of the existing Voting Rights Act that was extended by the Congress.

ROBERTS: Oh. Well, the existing Voting Rights Act: the constitutionality has been upheld. And I don't have any issue with that.

SPECTER: Let him finish his answer.

SPECTER: Let him finish his answer, Senator Kennedy.

SPECTER: Let him finish his answer, Senator Kennedy.

SPECTER: Let him finish his answer. That was a quite long question.


GRASSLEY: Given your views on judicial restraint, can you tell us to what extent you feel obliged to uphold a decision which you found not to be based on the original intent of the Constitution?Could you explain what factors or criteria you might use to evaluate to see whether a decision deviated from original intent, whether it should be overruled?

ROBERTS: Well, again, you would start the precedent of the court on that decision. In other words, if you think that the decision was correctly decided or wrongly decided, that doesn't answer the question of whether or not it should be revisited.You do have to look at whether or not the decision has led to a workable rule. You have to consider whether it's created settled expectations that should not be disrupted in the interest of regularity in the legal system. You do have to look at whether or not the bases of the precedent have been eroded. Those are the main considerations that the court has articulated in a case like Dickerson, Payne v. Tennessee and the others. These are all the factors that the court looks at.Obviously, a view about the case presents the question, but the court has emphasized it's not enough to think that the decision is wrong, to take the next step to revisit it an overrule.

GRASSLEY: During your tenure at the solicitor general's office, didn't you sign on to a number of briefs that urged the Supreme Court to adopt a broad interpretation of the Voting Rights Act, its new requirements, and to require expansive remedies when states violate the act? And didn't some of those briefs take the same side as the ACLU, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law?

ROBERTS: Yes, it was the responsibility of the Justice Department and before the Supreme Court, of course, the Office of the Solicitor General, to enforce the civil rights laws, and particularly the Voting Rights Act, as vigorously as possible.


BIDEN: Do you agree that there is a right of privacy to be found in the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

ROBERTS: I do, Senator. I think that the court's expressions, and I think if my reading of the precedent is correct, I think every justice on the court believes that, to some extent or another.Liberty is not limited to freedom from physical restraint. It does cover areas, as you said, such as privacy. And it's not protected only in procedural terms but it is protected substantively as well. Again, I think every member of the court subscribes to that proposition.

[...] [I]f these questions come before me either on the court on which I now sit or if I am confirmed on the Supreme Court, I need to decide those questions with an open mind, on the basis of the arguments presented, on the basis of the record presented in the case and on the basis of the rule of law, including the precedents of the court -- not on the basis of any commitments during the confirmation process.

SPECTER: Let him finish his answer, Joe.

SPECTER: Senator Biden, let him finish.

SPECTER: Wait a minute, Senator Biden. He's not finished his answer.

SPECTER: Senator Biden, let him finish.

SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Let him finish his answer, Senator Biden

SPECTER: You may finish, Judge Roberts.


KYL: But as all of us with any involvement in sports knows, no two umpires or no two referees have the same strike zone or call the same kind of a basketball game. And ballplayers and basketball players understand that depending upon who the umpire is and who the referee is, the game can be called entirely differently.


Would a neutral umpire have overturned a 58-year-old Supreme Court precedent and gone against the understanding of the authors of the Fourteenth Amendment and also the views of almost half of the state legislatures at that time in making the decision that they made?

ROBERTS: Well, Senator, I think the answer to your question is yes…I think a very good case can be made about their views.

[…]My point is simply that, if you look at the Brown decision, it is more consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment and the original understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment than Plessy v. Ferguson.


KOHL: Judge Roberts, yesterday you described your role as a judge as just an umpire, as you called it, calling balls and strikes. And that's an interesting analogy for me, as I have, more than most, some personal experience with umpires and referees.

KOHL: But as all of us with any involvement in sports knows, no two umpires or no two referees have the same strike zone or call the same kind of a basketball game. And ballplayers and basketball players understand that depending upon who the umpire is and who the referee is, the game can be called entirely differently.
When we look at real legal cases, I wonder whether or not your analogy works.

KOHL: Judge, back in 1954, clearly the Supreme Court justices were willing to step outside the box, to break new ground, to do something that no one, no court, no legislature, no president had done before and strike out in an entirely new and positive direction for this country.They were not umpires simply calling balls and strikes. They were breaking new ground. And they did so in the best interests of our country, didn't they?

ROBERTS: Of course it was a dramatic shift. And the overruling of Plessy v. Ferguson was exactly that. ROBERTS: My point is simply that, if you look at the Brown decision, it is more consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment and the original understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment than Plessy v. Ferguson.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Blessed National Relief - Repeal McCarran Ferguson

With all the anxiety since Katrina paid the Gulf Coast a howling visit, hurricane victims have not had a good night's sleep in over two weeks.

For the lucky, an insurance policy can provide sustenance; implicit in the contract is restful indemnity in the aftermath of natural disaster.

But indemnity is not guaranteed to all, even those insured; said disaster must be caused by an insured peril as defined in the fine-print of a policy.

And it is this definition etched in policy language that has consumer groups worried carriers staving off insolvency or simply protecting their bottom line will scam policyholders.

After Florida's Hurricane Andrew in 1992, eight insurance carriers went belly-up, some quit writing new policies and others simply pulled out of the state. In the meantime, the fate of many claims dragged on for years, as the state fund that guaranteed losses from bankrupt carriers had to be shored up after more than $20.9 billion of losses to the industry and agency fund.

Raw Story reports an extensive band of consumer groups is setting up a hotline to help policyholders weave through bureaucracy and ensure companies do not escape their contractual liability.

Hopefully, the Mississippi and Louisiana’s insurance state funds will be in better fiscal shape than the state insured fund for injured employees in Ohio, which recently lost $300 million from dubious investment decisions by officeholders.

One possible bone of contention is whether flood damage from Katrina is a separate and distinct “occurrence,” apart from actual hurricane.

Using standard policy language, proximate cause for losses from a hurricane with wind speeds of up to 140 miles per hour, which in turn created a huge surge, which in turn broke the levee, which in turn created the “flood,” are covered. Katrina’s "floods" do not square with policy wording for flood: rising water due to rain.

What is likely to happen is a number of bankruptcies, such as those we saw in 1992. And similar to the deluge of water that recently overwhelmed local and state government, the ultimate price to bail out "large insurance firms" and safeguard their survival will be left to the federal government by way of grants and loans to state, and direct aid to the public.

Unbenown to the public, insurance carriers have enjoyed protection against antitrust laws, courtesy of the McCarran Ferguson Act of 1945; oversight is left to individual states and the law exempts insurance companies from antitrust laws prohibiting pricing and underwriting collusion.

The little gem of law is the gift that's been giving to the industry for the past 60 years.

After the Supreme Court ruled federal government oversight extended to insurance going-ons in United States v. South-Eastern Underwriting Association, the industry was able to convince Congress to immediately grant them waivers.

But does anyone believe part-time legislators can match behemoth corporate conglomerates with their surfeit of resources and army of lawyers and lobbyists to protect the public...?

Perhaps the soon-to-come industry handouts from Katrina will convince legislators that federal oversight is necessary.

Insurance companies try to misdirect the reasons for industry losses by blaming runaway juries that must be stopped through another give-away law: tort reform.

But legal reform does little to prevent companies from continuing the deadly practice of price wars and then price gouging, euphemistically dubbed "industry cycles," which leave consumers in a lurch when the madness stops, markets shrink and prices go up.

Nor does it ensure citizens rights will be universally guarded across state lines; currently, a mishmash of state insurance laws achieve different degrees of consumer protection. The Supreme Court rightly linked insurance to interstate commerce in their ruling of 1944.

A better way to mend the industry is to abolish the antitrust exemption and hold insurance business accountable to a national audience with full transparency.

Oversight should rest with Congress. Like the beleagured mayor and governor of Louisiana during the latest hurricane, sometimes a job is just to big for locals or part-time public officials.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

An Unorthodox 9/11 Perspective

Today is a day of worship for Christians throughout the nation in remembrance of 9/11 four years ago.

Through the horror of lives needlessly lost during the terrorist attacks of that late-summer morning, believers and non-believers alike asked in the aftermath if there was truly a just and merciful God, why did He allow this tragedy to befall us?

Just as people went to church to seek answers after 9/11, many went to church this morning, still seeking measure of the Lord.

At a tiny church approximately 43 miles outside the Pentagon in Catlett Virginia, an apposite biblical verse was heard throughout the pews. From the book of Matthews in the New Testament, the message came from Chapter 18:21-22 and spoke of forgiveness in a post-9/11 world.

A disciple asks Jesus how many times one should forgive before striking back.

21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

In other words, always.

The Bible calls for us to forgive each and every time, even those responsible for the 9/11 tragedy; through Christ's spirit, we are to provide dispensation.

What a towering, mighty order, especially for those directly afflicted through the loss of loved ones.

But what of God….? Might the words of Jesus not also apply to our Heavenly Father for allowing it to happen…?

Totally outside Christian orthodoxy, thoughts of a bicameral Supreme Being needing forgiveness to fulfill our salvation for His glory come to mind.

Certainly, it would conform to spiritual battles we are called to fight in the war of hosts.

I will therefore pray for the passion of forgiveness and surrender my questioning through grace to the kingdom that enjoins chaos, joy and wonder in this world.

A poem for your prospects.

I never lost as much but twice,
And that was in the sod.
Twice have I stood a beggar
Before the door of God!

Angels -- twice descending
Reimbursed my store --
Burglar! Banker -- Father!
I am poor once more!

Emily dickinson

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Unintended Make Over - More Blues for the Red State

A great number of evacuees crossed the state line to Texas and ended up at Houston’s Astrodome, Reliant Arena and Center, or George R. Brown Convention Center.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the Coast Guard, “in charge of Houston’s mega-shelters,” said that by last Wednesday a majority of the near 25,000 evacuees had already dispersed; some to family, others to shelters in other parts of state and country, and some had financial means to go it alone.

The paper also reports more than 115,000 Louisianans found their way to other regions of Texas; some to Dallas, others to San Antonio, still others to Austin, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, Amarillo, Belton, and Reed Arena in College Station at Texas A&M.

With all the moving about, one can't help but anticipate that more than a few will likely remain in the area. One possible political outcome from the rash of New Orleans transplants is a shift in demographics: more Democratic voters in the Lone Star state.

What delicious irony if they were to remain in Texas, register and tilt the scarlet red state to Democrats in next year’s election.

Perhaps can open a shelter right smack in the middle of Tom DeLay’s district to help the process along; the accomodations would definitely be better than those we've witnessed in Bushvilles along the state and nation.

Tissue of Lies

Administration toadies just never stop their lying. If I had just $1 for every time they’ve told the same untruth, I’d be as rich as Croesus; or at least retire with riches equal to King George.

Get this straight folks. The governor of Louisiana did declare a state of emergency. On Friday, August 26, a full three days before the storm hit; so quit saying she did nothing.

A Sunday front-page Washington Post story, based on an anonymous administration official, repeated this canard without fact-checking; the next day, on page 2, in tiny print, the Post recanted.

Don’t just take my word for it. Look it up for yourselves.

Unconstitutional Civil Rights Encroachment by the Bush Administration

The list of outrages under the Bush administration on civil liberties is extensive. Every day there are more to add to the too-long list.

Weekly this site will tally latest attacks. For the sake of immediacy, today’s post will merely recount ones from today alone.

U.S. backs down from banning media from recovery efforts.

CNN had sued for access to salvage missions after the government issued an order barring the media.

CNN reports that the government backtracked Saturday; right after U.S. District Court Judge Keith Ellison [had] issued “a temporary restraining order…against [the] ‘zero access’ policy…by Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore” pronounced on Friday. The Washington Post also reported on the firing.

Texas Lawyer Fired for Talking to Media.

An attorney with the secretary of state's office in Texas was fired for talking to the Washington Post about Karl Rove's eligibility to vote.

Elizabeth Reyes had been quoted in an article by the Post that called to question Rove's ability to vote in Texas just by simply owning two rental shacks worth less than $25,000.

Here is the offending quote from a Sept. 3 article.

“Down in Texas, when you register to vote in a place where you don't actually live, the county prosecutor can come after you for voter fraud” Rove's rental cottage "doesn't sound like a residence to me, because it's not a fixed place of habitation," she said. "If it's just property that they own, ownership doesn't make that a residence."

Friday, September 09, 2005

From the Jeff Gannon school of journalism, Democratic comestibles to chew on.


FEMA Urged First Responders Not To Respond To Hurricane Areas. While the situation in New Orleans became increasingly worse, FEMA issued a press release urging all fire and emergency services departments not to respond to counties and states affected by Hurricane Katrina without being requested and lawfully dispatched by state and local authorities. [FEMA Press Release, 8/29/05,]

FEMA Refuses to Ship Trailers to Mississippi To Help With Relief Efforts. "Senator Trent Lott called on President Bush to authorize the immediate release of 20,000 trailers sitting idle in Atlanta. Lott said FEMA has refused to ship the trailers because of red tape and paperwork." [CNN, 9/6/05]

FEMA Would Not Let Red Cross Deliver Food to New Orleans. As the National Guard delivered food to the New Orleans convention center, American Red Cross officials said that FEMA authorities would not allow them to do the same. "The Homeland Security Department has requested and continues to request that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans," said Renita Hosler, spokeswoman for the Red Cross. [Pittsburg Post-Gazette, 9/4/05]

FEMA Refused Amtrak's Offer Of Trains To Evacuate Victims. "Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) accused the Federal Emergency Management Agency of 'dragging its feet' when Amtrak offered trains to evacuate victims. 'Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency,' she said." [Financial Times, 9/5/05]


Bureaucratic Reconfigurations Have Stripped FEMA Of Its Focus. When FEMA was folded into the Department of Homeland Security, it became part of the new department's prime focus on terrorism, not winds or floods. The result has been shakeups and reconfigurations that have left the old agency stripped of many of its funding programs and some of its money, prompting cries of protest from emergency managers across the country. [Editorial, Wall Street Journal, 8/16/04]

Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt: Extra Bureaucracy Hindered FEMA's Success. Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt shared his concerns with the House Government Reform Committee in 2004: "We are greatly concerned that the successful partnership that was built between local/state/federal partners and their ability to communicate, coordinate, train, prepare, and respond has been sharply eroded. Second, FEMA... is being buried beneath a massive bureaucracy whose main and seemingly only focus is fighting terrorism while an all hazards mission is getting lost in the shuffle. I firmly believe that FEMA should be extracted from the DHS bureaucracy and re-establish it as an independent agency reporting directly to the President... Third, the FEMA Director has lost Cabinet status and along with it the close relationship to the President and Cabinet Affairs." [House Government Reform Committee, 3/24/04]

BUSH Cut FEMA'S Disaster Relief Funds

Disaster Mitigation Programs Slashed Since 2001. Since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA's Project Impact, a model mitigation program created by the Clinton Administration, has been canceled outright. Federal funding of post-disaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half, and now communities across the country must compete for pre-disaster mitigation dollars. [Baltimore City Paper, 9/29/04]

Bush Continuing To Propose Cuts To Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps of Engineers will be cut in 2006. Bush's 2005 budget proposal called for a 13 percent reduction in the Army Corps of Engineers budget, down to $4 billion from $4.6 billion in fiscal 2004. [Associated Press, 2/6/05; Congressional Quarterly Online, 2/3/04]

Tim Russert to Moderate Kaine-Kilgore Debate

This coming Tuesday, the lieutenant governor of Virginia will debate former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore at a luncheon sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.

Billed as the first televised real debate by the two major candidates for office, mega-star from NBC Tim Russert will moderate.

Although third-party candidate Republican State Sen. Ross Potts of Winchester was not invited to the bash, Kaine has agreed to debate Potts after the luncheon at Tyson’s Corner Marriott; it will be closed to the public, however, with only media in attendance.

Locked-out Potts decries the label of spoiler candidate, yet wistfully notes on his Web site that he “may be the most influential of all in determining the outcome of the race on Nov. 8,” claiming he takes two Kilgore votes for every one from Kaine in the crimson state of Virginia.

A partisan Pac, Raising Kaine, began calling the Republican candidate "Jerry 'the duck' Kilgore" for previously ducking debates; and with Potts potential to siphon more votes from Kilgore, they claim the "trust the people candidate" doesn't trust people enough to allow Potts to have a voice.

If Potts is right about demographics of his support base and can garner 10 percent or more of total votes, he could swing the election in Kaine's favor.

Potts says he is running because he is hopping mad with the right-wing faction of his party; and their occult-like focus with “wedge issues” such as “God, guns, gays and immigrants.

Having a tough opponent during last year's primary certainly didn’t help Richmond party bosses endear themselves to him.

Why hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, or like a long-standing member of a political party who is nearly run out of office by his own fraternity.

Delicious suspense overflows in the Commonwealth.

Former Republican Gov. Linwood Holton happens to be the father-in-law to the Democratic nominee; and enough party moderates may vote for Kaine in equal numbers as they did for Warner's winning campaign.

With Gov. Mark Warner’s high approval numbers but term-limited, his rumored candidacy for the White House in ’08 would greatly be strengthened with a Kaine victory in November.

On the other side of the political aisle, another potential presidential candidate, Virginia’s junior senator George Allen would like nothing better than to have the governorship from his home state in safe Republican hands. But last year's primary opposition to Potts could cost Republicans the governor's mansion in Richmond.

Kilgore has tried to make Kaine's religious opposition to the death penalty a campaign issue. Kaine is a devout Catholic who morally opposes both the death penalty and abortion.

It is hardly surprising for Kaine to personally oppose capital punishment. Pope John Paul II as well as a majority of Catholics has opposed the ultimate sentence. As governor, Kaine pledges to uphold the laws of Virginia.

Kaine's deep roots in Catholicism are evident by works. After finishing law school at the age of 24, he took a year off from career decisions and traveled to El Progreso, Honduras as a Catholic missionary.

Kilgore has made a vital tenet of his campaign for governor the misguided promise to eliminate the "trigger man" rule. If elected, the former prosecutor says he will allow "prosecutors to seek the death penalty" not only for the person who pulls the trigger, but accomplices as well.

Local Channel 8 in Arlington will air the debate. Panelists Bruce DePuyt of News Channel 8, Peggy Fox of WUSA TV and Mike Moss of WTOP Radio will provide the questions.

Debate begins after a sold-out luncheon at 1:00 p.m. The more modest affair between Kaine and Potts at the Marriott begins at 3:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Operation Freedom Muzzle.

Reports from the press corps indicate the White House and its public relation crisis management team are barring journalists with their tell-all video and cameras from certain areas of New Orleans.

It started when FEMA gave new marching orders: no pictures of the dead; something about respecting the departed. You know, same as dead soldiers flying into Dover Air Force Base.

Yet as one canny blogger on Ameriblog remarked, then “why was the media invited to film the goings on of the Rehnquist death?"

Was the chief justice recently dissed without the public taking notice...?

Brian Williams of NBC reports from New Orleans “[T]he city has now reached a near-saturation level of military and law enforcement. In the areas we visited, the red berets of the 82nd Airborne are visible on just about every block. National Guard soldiers are ubiquitous.”

Their mission: Round up the foot-draggers and keep the media from reporting real news.

When the news crew tried to “take pictures of the National Guard (a unit from Oklahoma) taking up positions outside a Brooks Brothers on the edge of the Quarter,” Williams informs, “the sergeant ordered us to the other side of the boulevard.”

Sadly, the scene deteriorated even further, as journalists were treated equal to earlier thugs who’d ransacked the streets.“

At that same fire scene," Williams continues, "a police officer from out of town raised the muzzle of her weapon and aimed it at members of the media... obvious members of the media... armed only with notepads.”

Editor and Publisher reports FEMA refused journalists access on rescue mission boats: no room at the inn this go-around. So much for the grand vision of embedded journalists; only when it suits their Rovian/Machevellian purposes.

Reporters are justifiably upset. E & P quotes Larry Siems of Reuters. "It's impossible for me to imagine how you report a story whose subject is death without allowing the public to see images of the subject of the story."

As a Cuban-American who left behind her island country during the 1960s, Bush's latest political contrivance looks strikingly familiar; and should to anyone who has ever lived under Communist rule.

The state controls the media, at any cost, including aiming rifles at persons who might dislodge state-approved disinformation.

Williams notes “the fact that the National Guard now bars entry (by journalists) to the very places where people last week were barred from LEAVING (The Convention Center and Superdome) is a kind of perverse and perfectly backward postscript to this awful chapter in American history.”

Unfortunately, this is not a mere chapter, but the sad continuing saga of how Republicans govern.

Just a short post to note how Republicans try to bamboozle the public with alternative reality; or reality, which when closely examined means nothing.

In my inbox this morning, I received an e-mail from my right-wing cyberspace buddy, rubbing my nose in the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll.

According to him, the poll shows a “whopping 13% (sic) of Americans think Katrina mess was Bush’s fault.” Tellingly, three times the number of folks blame the mayor and the governor.

My friend further comments how the majority of Americans feel it was “an act of God, a natural disaster, and nobody’s fault.”

His last comment is a non sequitur, and further reveals the fallacy of his initial inference.

Of course most people believe Katrina was no one’s fault; for God's sake, it was a natural disaster; but this fact doesn’t relieve Bush from responsibility as to how he responded; and apparently the American people are not too happy with the latter.

The latest CBS poll is posted below. Draw your own conclusions.


Now Approve 38%
Disapprove 58%
Don't Know 4%

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Blaming residents and local and state officials for the carnage from Katrina is like blaming early toddlers for crapping in their diapers.

They have a sense it's coming, they've been told what they should do but they can't help it, they poop in their pants anyway.

Let's say you wake up all alone after an angst filled night with dreams of ghosts and howling winds; your baby legs can't climb over the railing; and with no help on the horizon, you release your tiny bowels.

This is what happened, both literally and figuratively, to folks who were trapped in rising waters in New Orleans; and local officials who kept waiting for the National Guard.

The Houston Chronicle reported, "as many as 100,000 inner-city residents" were believed to be stuck without transportation and several thousand tourists were stranded when officials closed the airport."

In soiled diapers, assurances made to the children of New Orleans during story time with a hurricane careering towards New Orleans about Barbie beds with racing stripe bedspreads that would protect them, rang hollow; and it made the tots howl and poop all the more after the storm hit.

Surely government agency mission statements that professed immediate federal resources to local and state governments during a natural disaster applied equally to Louisiana as to Florida during Hurricane Andrew, cried city and state officials...

A pre-hurricane story in the Chronicle on Sunday said the first to be evacuated to the Superdome in anticipation of the tempest were the infirmed. “[F]rail, elderly people on walkers, some with oxygen tanks…were told to bring enough food, water and medicine to last up to five days.

About 16,000 eventually sought shelter at the Superdome ; but by early Tuesday, their safety haven became a pool of despair, living like beasts, with children being raped, one man reported killing himself, and several more dying inside. No government official was in charge.

For more than four days, mommies and daddies failed to drop off fresh diapers for Loquesha or DeShawn or Germaine or Corvetta or Myesha or their little sisters and brothers. The tykes were left to their own devises and to the the squalor of their shit pen.

Read the following headlines and weep, from dailykos.

FEMA blocks 500-boat citizen flotilla from delivering aid
FEMA fails to utilize Navy ship with 600-bed hospital on board
FEMA to Chicago: Send just one truck
FEMA turns away generators
FEMA: "First Responders Urged Not To Respond"
FEMA won't accept Amtrak's help in evacuations
FEMA turns away experienced firefighters
FEMA turns back Wal-Mart supply trucks
FEMA prevents Coast Guard from delivering diesel fuel
FEMA won't let Red Cross deliver food
FEMA bars morticians from entering New Orleans

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