Thursday, September 29, 2005

From the "broken clock is right twice a day" file

Jeb Bradley has decided to return the $15,000 he received from Tom DeLay via the sketchy Americans for a Republican Majority.

The question still beckons as to why Jeb thought taking DeLay's tainted dough was a good idea in the forst place, but I'll leave that matter for another day.

There are two immediate prblems, however. First, Jeb has simply given a shady outfit $15K to play with as it sees fit. As I have said repeatedly, Jeb should have donated that money to a worthy NH charity.

Second, Jeb still has a record of pocketing contributions from some less-than-savory Congressional colleagues. He has collected a considerable amount of money from DeLay's replacement, Roy Blunt, who is also no great shakes in the ethics department. Blunt, you will recall, is the guy who slid sweetheart provisions into legislation for the benefit of his lobbyist girlfriend.

I'm glad that Jeb has realized that ethics are a valid issue in this campaign. What I don't think he understands is that his lack of judgement is a valid issue as well.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

DeLay Indicted

Earlier today, a Texas grand jury indicted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on felony conspiracy charges related to the activities of his political action committee.

For far too long, Tom DeLay has played fast and loose with both the law and with the limits of basic ethical decency. Hopefully, this indictment will begin the process of ensuring that DeLay is held accountable for his actions.

Congressman Bradley owes the people of New Hampshire an apology for supporting the political career of someone like Tom DeLay. By accepting thousands of dollars of DeLay's tainted money and by consistently voting with DeLay on key ethics votes, Jeb has shown that his loyalty to the corrupt DeLay machine outweighs his committment to the people of New Hampshire. That's not acceptable, and it is something that we will discuss throughout this campaign.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Jeb's Friends

Jeb Bradley has accepted thousands of dollars in contributions from several politicians described as "the most corrupt members of Congress" in a new report issued by a non-partisan watchdog group.

The report, entitled "Beyond DeLay: The 13 Most Corrupt Members of Congress", was released earlier today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Jeb has accepted campaign money from four of the politicians cited in the report:

Sen. Bill Frist: Frist is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding the recent sale of stock in HCA, a hospital management firm owned by Frist's family. He has also faced questions regarding an improperly disclosed campaign loan.

Frist's Volunteer PAC gave $5,000 to Bradley.

Rep. Bob Ney: Ney was the recipient of a European golfing vacation from lobbyist Jack Abramoff at the same time Ney's congressional committee was handling legislation affecting Abramoff's clients.

Ney's American Liberty PAC gave $1,000 to Bradley.

Rep. Roy Blunt: Blunt has been criticized for inserting favorable provisions into legislation that benefited clients of both his son and his girlfriend. Both are lobbyists.

Blunt's Rely On Your Beliefs PAC gave $15,000 to Bradley.

Rep. Richard Pombo: Pombo pressured the Department of the Interior to grant favors to the wind power industry, without disclosing that his family receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties from wind-turbines operating on the families ranch.

The Pombo for Congress Committee gave $1,000 to Bradley.

There is no place in government for cronyism and backroom deals. This sort of beghavior only undercuts public confidence in our public institutions. When Jeb Bradley accepts money from politicians who engage in shady practices, he sends a message that he considers this sort of behavior acceptable. Well, it isn't.

If Jeb's choice in friends is any indication of where his values lie, it is time for him to come home and try and regain a sense of perspective.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

When in doubt, mumble

The distinguished gentleman from Wolfeboro held a town hall meeting in Portsmout yesterday morning. According to the Portsmouth Herald, Jeb Bradley was questioned on the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. As is customary with Rep. Bradley, he acknowledged there was a problem, but then proceeded to skitter away from anything resembling a coherent solution:

"When locals asked about steps he would be taking in the wake of the government response to Hurricane Katrina, Bradley discussed a budget reconciliation and a congressional investigation, but he would not cite specifics.

'Were there problems? Absolutely,' Bradley said. But he added that there will be things from both hurricanes Katrina and Rita that everyone will learn from."

Sometimes leadership means taking a stand that annoys Tom DeLay and Karl Rove. We should demand more from our elected voice in Washington than platitudes and vague generalities. We should expect leadership and answers.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Live from Jackson Square

The president's choice of Jackso Square for his speech last night was strangely appropriate.

Those of you who have visited New Orleans know that Jackson Square plays host to a score of peculiar characters who delight on parting people from their money. Nothing different last night, evidently.

The one bit of good news is that the federal government has committed itself to the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast region. Unfortunately, that's where the good news ends.

For reasons known but to the President and his Creator, George W. Bush has decided to place Karl Rove in charge of the reconstruction effort. Keep in mind that Rove is a political operative. He has no background in disaster relief or recovery operations, no experience in public health, economic development or housing policy. He's a man whose role has been to safeguard George Bush's political interests, which aren't always the same as the broader public interest.

I won't even get into the fact thta the man is facing a possible federal indictment for releasing classified intelligence info in order to exact revenge on a Bush administration critic.

If anyone in Washington epitomizes what's wrong with the current political climate, it is Karl Rove. He's vindictive, hyper-partisan, and committed to cronyism. Why he should be allowed anywhere near the recovery effort is beyond me.

Here's a better idea.

First, form a governmental corporation to run the reconstruction effort. Get this process out of the hands of the White House spin-and-patronage crowd, and let the grown ups do the job. Appoint folks with backgrounds in economic development, human services, public health, infrastructure development and logistics to run this operation in a professional manner. Demand transparency and accountability, and whenever possible, require a fair and honest bidding process.

We can live with glib half-confessions. We can't live with the future of the Gulf Coast being placed in the hands of ethically deficient political hacks.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hate Crimes law passes, no thanks to Jeb

On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives approved an amendment sponsored by Rep. John Conyers that gives law enforcement officials the ability to prosecute hate crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation, gender, or disability.

The amendment passed the House with strong bipartisan support. The New England delegation was almost unanimous in its support for the measure.


Yep, you guessed it. Jeb Bradley was the only New Englander of either party to oppose the Conyers amendment.

This amendment sends an important message that there is no place for hatred and violence in America. Everyone who works hard and plays by the rules should be an important member of the American family. By providing prosecutors with the tools to prosecute those who would deny others that right, we are strengthening the fabric of our community.

I'm stunned that Jeb Bradley would thumb his nose at his constituents with this vote. Jeb continues to claim that he is a moderate, but votes such as this demonstrate his willingness to put a corrupt party leadership ahead of his own neighbors. That's disgraceful.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Update on Kat's family

Katya's parents and grandparents haven't been able to check on their homes in New Orleans, but a neighbor indicated that the Algiers section of the city escaped major damage. The major flooding was on the east bank of the Mississippi River, which, in New Orleans surreal geography, is actually to the north.

In another bit of good news, Kat's grandfather checked on a small piece of property he owns in Mississippi, about halfway between Gulfport and Hattiesburg. He maintains a small mobile home up there as a camp where the grandkids and great grandkids of the Eustis clan can go swimming, rafting, and fishing. Amazingly, the place is still standing. Lots of trees down, but the home itself is more or less intact.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

When incompetence becomes immorality

Every time I start to calm down a bit, I find something like this, courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune (via Andrew Sullivan):

"As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.

"Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.

"Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

"On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency."

Read the whole thing here, if only for the infuriating response where the FEMA spokesperson blames this on the firefighters.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fire Brown and

If the Bush Administration wishes to have any hope of salvaging its credibility, the President must fire not only FEMA head Michael Brown, but Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Brown is an incompetent political hack, plain and simple. A man whose previous gig was running a horse breeder's association was put in charge of a federal agency with life-and-death responsibilities. That's absurd, and it's almost criminally negligent. He's taken a bad situation and turned it into a soup sandwich. If state and local governments-indeed, the rest of the federal government-are to take FEMA seriously, Brown needs to be replaced with a new director with the experience and skills to execute his or her duties.

Chertoff has appeared to be more interested in political blame allocation than with untangling the bureaucratic spider web that has hindered relief efforts. In a time of crisis, leaders accept responsibility. Secretary Chertoff's attempts to hang the disaster around the neck of Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco are bad enough; when he and his White House allies distort facts, mislead the media and flat-out lie to do so, they lay bare an ethical gap that should disqualify them from positions of dire responsibility.

I also think that the New Orleans catastrophe raises frightening questions about DHS's ability to effectively perform its core mission. If Chertoff and his team are utterly useless in this context, then it is fair to ask how things would be different if the department were called to respond to a dirty bomb attack in Chicago or a nerve gas attack on Boston.

Chertoff and Brown were put to the test. They failed. They must go.

Monday, September 05, 2005

A new boss for FEMA

The first presidential candidate to promise to replace Michael Brown with Jabbar Gibson has my vote.

Here's the story from the Houston Chronicle:

School bus comandeered by renegade refugees first to arrive at Astrodome
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

The first busload of New Orleans refugees to reach the Reliant Astrodome overnight was a group of people who commandeered a school bus in the city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and drove to Houston looking for shelter.

Jabbar Gibson, 20, said police in New Orleans told him and others to take the school bus and try to get out of the flooded city.

Gibson drove the bus from the flooded Crescent City, picking up stranded people, some of them infants, along the way. Some of those on board had been in the Superdome, among those who were supposed to be evacuated to Houston on more than 400 buses Wednesday and today. They couldn't wait.

The group of mostly teenagers and young adults pooled what little money they had to buy diapers for the babies and fuel for the bus.

After arriving at the Astrodome at about 10:30 p.m., however, they initially were refused entry by Reliant officials who said the aging landmark was reserved for the 23,000 people being evacuated from the Louisiana Superdome.

"Now, we don't have nowhere to go," Gibson said. "We heard the Astrodome was open for people from New Orleans. We ain't ate right, we ain't slept right. They don't want to give us no help. They don't want to let us in."

Milling about the Reliant entrance, Sheila Nathan, 38, told her teary-eyed toddler that she was too tired to hold him.

"I'm trying to make it a fairy tale so they won't panic," said Nathan, who had four grandchildren in tow. "I have to be strong for them."

After about 20 minutes of confusion and consternation, Red Cross officials announced that the group of about 50 to 70 evacuees would be allowed into the Astrodome.

All were grateful to be out of the devastation and misery that had overtaken their hometown.

"I feel good to get out of New Orleans," said Demetrius Henderson, who got off the bus with his wife and three children. Many of those around him alternated between excited, cranky and nervous, clutching suitcases or plastic garbage bags of clothes.

They looked as bedraggled as their grueling ride would suggest: 13 hours on the commandeered bus driven by a 20-year-old man. Watching bodies float by as they tried to escape the drowning city. Picking up people along the way. Three stops for fuel. Chugging into Reliant Park, only to be told initially that they could not spend the night.

Every bit worth it.

"We took the bus and got out of the city. We were trying to get out of the city," James Hickerson said.

Several passengers on the bus said they took the matter into their own hands earlier Wednesday because they felt rescuers and New Orleans authorities were too slow in offering help.

"They are not worried about us," said Makivia Horton, 22, who is five months pregnant.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

It's time for competence

The Times-Picayune is reporting that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco has tapped former FEMA director James Lee Witt to oversee the state's relief and recovery operations. That's good news.

Witt is a consumate professional. He turned FEMA from a patronage dump to a functioning agency, only to see his successors revert to business as usual. He's a tough manager whose presence should bring a renewed sense of purpose and organization to the situation on the ground.

This also speaks volumes about the lack of confidence in the cast of characters running the federal relief operation. Chertoff and Brown are clearly not up to the job, so it's time to bring in someone who understands how to run a disaster relief operation.

Friday, September 02, 2005

How we can help

Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and Catholic Community Services of the Diocese of Baton Rouge are working to assist the folks left homeless in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Here's some info on what they're doing and how you can help:

How Catholic Charities USA helps in disasters:
Our strength is in long-term recovery help. However in the emergency assistance phase of an operation we may provide assistance in the areas of disaster needs assessment, disaster clean-up, mass feeding, mass shelter, first aid, crisis counseling, pastoral care, child-care, home repair, and family casework.
In the long term we provide assistance in meeting those "unmet needs" that remain after the emergency is over. This may include additional rental assistance, food vouchers, cash vouchers, counseling, and job-training/placement, etc.
Financial contributions are often the best kind of donation to make and the only kind Catholic Charities USA accepts. Providing a financial contribution to a voluntary agency involved in disaster relief is often the most sensible and the most efficient way of helping the people in need after a disaster.
On relief operations: Our agencies and organizations will often spend the money in the local disaster area thus helping the local economy get back on its feet. Cash donations allow the client to participate in their healing by using the funds to buy what they need, rather than being handed stuff they may or may not need. Cash donations rather than unsolicited donated goods avoid the complicated, costly and time-consuming process of collecting, sorting, packing, transporting, unloading, resorting, storing, repackaging, and distributing the goods.
Cash donations help meet peoples' needs more precisely as Catholic Charities agencies are in a better position to purchase what the people need or can provide vouchers for people to purchase what they need.

Catholic Charities USA
Hurricane Relief Fund
PO Box 25168
Alexandria, VA 22313-9788

Catholic Community Services
P.O. Box 1668
Baton Rouge, LA 70821

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Sen. Landrieu: We'll Need Your Help

Mary Landrieu has always been one of my favorite Louisiana politicians. She's tough, honest and loves her state with a genuine passion.

Here's Senator landrieu's op-ed from today's Washington Post.

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