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Saturday, September 24, 2005
Et Orbi

Just like with ordinary people, there are some Popes the camera loves and some the camera despises.
Photogenic John Paul II’s successor, Benedict XVI, has, seemingly, never met a camera that liked him.
The ferret-like Joseph Ratzinger, with his sunken, black-rimmed eyes, unkempt hair and repulsive hands, just cannot manage to fit the individually-sized costume that once so beautifully framed Karol Wotija’s mastery of the world media stage.
God, sometimes, works in mysterious ways.

The mincing red-shoed steps Benedict displayed at his 2-hour outdoor installation on April 24th have not been mimicked in the absolutist policy directives spewing from the very political one-time head of the Holy Office of the Inquisition since springtime.
He has rid himself, by forced resignation, of a troublesome Catholic magazine editor.
He twisted World Youth Day to his own personal political agenda; telling a group visiting the Papal summer residence that he was “animated by…the not few difficulties, the obstacles and the problems that… accompany the authentic search for Christ and faithful adhesion to his Gospel."
He demanded the Bush administration protect him from liability in a Texas lawsuit for protecting the abuser of three young boys.
And, he has been relentless, as only a man who plotted for a throne can be, in his campaign to vilify homosexuals and to smear them with the Church’s own 1,000 year history of pederasty.
Benedict’s demonstrated iron grip stems from a revealing confession announced during his installation homily (PDF):

My real program of governance is…the word and the will of the Lord… He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history.

Benedict, in a triumph of the “nice work if you can get it” philosophy, believes himself transmogrified into God the Father and homosexuals into an Adam-fixated snake entwined about the Tree of Knowledge.
A document of "instruction” soon to be released from the hand of God XVI reaffirms the Church’s well-known historic bans on homosexuality among the hoi polloi while skimping on documented instances of homosexually-inflamed heterosexual male pederasty among the Princes and near Princes of the Church.
According to a story printed in yesterday’s New York Times:

Gay priests say they are being scapegoated for crimes committed by pedophiles and covered up by bishops who never faced any discipline…"I feel like a Jew in Berlin in the 1930's," said a 48-year-old gay priest who has spent 18 years in a religious order…Many of the gay priests said that the expected Vatican policy and the seminary visits would drive gay priests more deeply underground and create the same unhealthy, sexually repressed climate that prevailed in seminaries before reforms in the 1980's and 90's.

As many American noted during the 2004 presidential race, demonizing a particular group can be a very effective means of blurring other, peskier issues and a master political, and almost Rovian, distance sprinter like Joseph Ratzinger has grabbed and wielded this odious baton with fiendish gusto.
Here, within the geographic bounds of the Diocese of Covington in quasi-rural northern Kentucky, Benedict’s church will begin paying the largest settlement in US history for the molestation of more than 700 children during a 50-year cover-up of these crimes by the Diocese.
Benedict’s allegedly God-inspired broad brush becomes absurd here in Kentucky when examining the settlement dispersal rules hammered out between the Church and the lawyers for the abuse victims.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Claimants will be grouped into four categories, based on the nature and severity of the abuse. Compensation will range from $5,000 to $450,000 each.

One pales when considering the awkward parsing Church fathers will utilize to spread this thin butter of absolution over the widest area possible of the very course bread of their sins.
In his installation homily Benedict utilized a long tortured metaphor of sin as a desert:

The desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love… the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity…external deserts in the world are growing…the earth’s treasures…they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction.

In this passage, the former Joseph Ratzinger perhaps offers a window into his own frustration-beset soul and a glimmer of the intractability of an earth-bound Church’s battle with powerful men and worldly sin.

NOTE--A priestly quick fix.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The President attends a briefing on Hurricane Rita at FEMA headquarters in Washington,DC this morning.

Modified Image: Reuters,,
Thursday, September 22, 2005

President plays the guitar on Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, 12:38PM EDT:

MR. McCLELLAN: The President wants to go in there and be able to thank all those first responders…

Q: But it sounds like a bit of a photo op, one that he'd prefer over playing the guitar at the airport photo op before Katrina.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, let's correct the record on that…That was an event to go and thank our troops and talk about the war on terrorism…

Q: He didn't pick up the guitar while the hurricane was rolling into Louisiana?

MR. McCLELLAN: The person that was entertaining our troops there presented a gift to the President…one of your colleagues at ABC News who was backstage taking a picture of that.

Q: It was a very good picture and I'm proud of her, but the question I have –

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, but that picture was taken…by some people way out of context. And it was portrayed that the President was simply doing that…

Q: The point was that he was over there and not –

MR. McCLELLAN: As you and I know, I had announced shortly before that, that we were returning the next morning…

Q: Fair enough.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that's unfair.

Q: So the trip to Texas to take a look at the preparations and show support for the first responders is not a photo op?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is very much something that's in flux.

Note--The first question listed here says the President was playing the guitar "before Katrina".
The photo's date shows that the President was playing a full day after Katrina struck and the New Orleans levies began their catasrophic failure.

Photo: AP

I am amazed, this morning, not by the National Enquirer’s Bush story (linked below) but by the reaction of some commenters on the various liberal blogs.
Generally, and unbelievably I feel, these people see the story as presenting the President in a sympathetic light.
Oh sure there are those quibbling with various details of the story and another set who view all world events as being manipulated by master svengali Karl Rove but while scenic and motivational details embellish a story they are not the story.
How an insensate President, asleep at the wheel as our national ship steams aimlessly across a wine-dark sea, could engender positive voter feelings or a kinder historic judgment remains a mystery.
The nit-picky scene-settings and reporter surmised motivations are not as important as the overall thrust of the often very credible National Enquirer's source information.

Bush this morning at DOD

The President, to my jaundiced eyes, has been acting strangely for quite a while now...tic, fast anger, mood swings, odd moments of confusion and his own unique memory of public events.
Mr. Bush's behavior, sadly for our country in these perilous times, has been another large pink elephant in the living room of the public stage.
And oh yes, of course, remember the President’s actions are always carefully enabled by our warm, caring friends in the very corporate (not Jack Cafferty) media.
Was it yesterday that CNN’s Wolf Blitzer kept saying..."We're expecting the President to speak any moment now.
We're expecting tape to be fed in and we'll get it to you just as soon as possible."

What is this suddenly 1973, the dawn of live cams?
Isn't it curious, to say the least, that this President is so rarely shown conducting his version of public business live on the toob???
Oh sure, there is the very occasional East Room prime time press Q&A and a SOTU or two, but mainly Mr. Bush is presented via "tape just fed in."
Clever how the easily excited Blitzie casts this unnecessary process in such exciting terms, no?
Consider that other things could happen prior to a tape feed...things like sound and image editing...odd statements and odd (or let's call them unsettling to the national psyche in these times of national security) images deftly moved, shifted or excised altogether by the skilled hands of a tape editor.
People, based on Internet commenting and emails to the cable webs, love to mention Bush and his controlling snake Rove in terms of The Wizard of Oz.
For this present idea of a barely sober Bush the Videotaped, think of the imagined Wizard’s big green Wizard head rippling with video scan lines and a roll or two, ala Max Headroom.
Presidents, and I mean all Presidents, know they will linger in the histories of their time.
It wasn’t so many years ago that another President, polling in the upper 30 percentile and facing an onslaught of scandal, began drinking heavily.
Thanks to tattle-tail Henry Kissinger, we know that our 37th President, when deeply into his cups would telephone to ask his Secretary of State to stop by the White House for one of the pudgy Bavarian’s ego-building tongue baths.
Kissinger’s descriptions of a sloppily inebriated Nixon sobbing, praying and cursing portraits of previous First Citizens have remained etched in my mind for many long years.
Drunkenness and drug-addiction are serious American problems that cut through all class distinctions.
A person with such a burden destroys himself and all around him in his slavery to the substance of choice.
As much as I dislike President Bush and the policies of his maladministration, I wouldn’t wish substance abuse on him.
For America’s sake I hope the Enquirer, this time, got its facts wrong.
But, I, with great trepidation, suspect yesterday’s story is largely and disturbingly correct.

Image: National Enquirer, Reuters
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

According to a story published today on

President Bush has hit the bottle again...Family sources have told how the 59-year-old president was caught by First Lady Laura downing a shot of booze at their family ranch in Crawford, Texas...said one insider. "He poured himself a Texas-sized shot of straight whiskey and tossed it back. The First Lady was shocked and shouted: "Stop George"...A Washington source said: "The sad fact is that he has been sneaking drinks for weeks now. Laura may have only just caught him — but the word is his drinking has been going on for a while in the capital.


The President appears perplexed by coffee cans as he tours a Folgers’ plant in New Orleans yesterday.

Through the excellent coverage from Talking Points Memo, Congressman George Miller and the Congressional Research Service say President Bush may have illegally suspended the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

President Bush was in such a hurry to cut workers’ wages that he did it even before declaring a national emergency. This may mean that the President’s wage proclamation was done illegally. Contractors in the Gulf Coast should be aware that the President’s proclamation may not protect them from liability if they choose to ignore the law and pay workers less than the prevailing wage…The Congressional Research Service issued a report [Sept 15th] that said that President Bush may have failed to follow the law when issuing his proclamation on Davis-Bacon. He should have first declared a national emergency pursuant to the National Emergencies Act, according to CRS. Miller said this haste reflected the Bush Administration’s eagerness to please right-wing political supporters who have long opposed Davis-Bacon.

Additionally, an important subsection of the National Emergencies Act could present a midterm election difficulty for Republicans:

(b) Termination review of national emergencies by Congress

Not later than six months after a national emergency is declared, and not later than the end of each six-month period thereafter that such emergency continues, each House of Congress shall meet to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine whether that emergency shall be terminated.

TPM’s Nathan Newman explains why this is important:

Because in six months, a bunch of Republicans in swing districts who claim to be pro-labor may have to vote on whether to continue the suspension of Davis-Bacon. If they vote with Delay, this could be the vote to knock a number out of them out of office. And if they vote with labor, it would be a massive national defeat for Bush and Delay…Avoiding this possibility may be why Bush didn't want to formally invoke the NEA.

KY 4th Congressman Geoff Davis (R)

This morning I was able to speak Armstrong Robinson, the Administrative Assistant to northern Kentucky’s freshman Republican Representative Geoff Davis regarding the congressman’s position toward President Bush’s suspension of Davis-Bacon.
According to Robinson, a Kenton County native, Congressman Davis supports the President's suspension based on a personal belief that "Davis-Bacon, being an outdated Depression-era law, will prevent market forces from driving the labor market [and so favors] removing artificial supports."
The Congressman believes "skilled labor" will be completely unaffected by the suspension.
I told him that my concern was also with unskilled labor and the Depression-era philosophy of raising all boats in the devastated areas.
Robinson didn't offer an opinion on unskilled labor except to offer an implied belief that contractors would behave in a fair manner.
I’m sure Congressman Davis, considering his personal belief that Davis-Bacon is "outdated", will be eager to record his position on President Bush's suspension into the public record pursuant to Section 1622 of Title 50 of the United States Code before his freshman term ends in November of 2006.

Photos: Reuters,
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
First the ridiculous…

David Safavian imaged by the Washington Post and (inset) Amicus Online

Just last Friday, as the Department of Justice filed a 3-count criminal complaint (PDF) in Washington, a 38 year-old member of the Executive Office of the President, David H. Safavian, head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget, abruptly resigned.
Safavian was a key player in the OMB’s recent and controversial decision to expand the unauthorized purchasing power of certain government officials to $250,000 to permit “agencies to more quickly purchase goods and services in support of Hurricane Katrina relief.”
At the time of his arrest, according to the New York Times, Safavian was involved in “developing contracting policies for the multibillion-dollar relief effort after Hurricane Katrina.”
Yesterday, based on that 3-count DOJ complaint, Mr. Safavian was arrested.
Safavian, the former partner of infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the equally infamous but unindicted Republican Field Marshal Grover Norquist, is accused of making false statements to a General Services Administration Ethics Officer and obstructing a GSA Inspector General investigation.
With front-page headlines in the major media and with liberal websites, particularly the always excellent Talking Points Memo, buzzing with the audacity and interconnectedness of high-level Republican corruption, one can Google lots of information about Safavian’s curious “relationships”.
For example, the then 35 year-old David accompanied then 41 year-old Jack “Mitts on the Moolah” Abramoff on one of his legally controversial St. Andrews, Scotland golf outing in August 2002.
According to the New York Times, a lobbyist emailing Abramoff prior to the golf trip must have, like us, wondered about the youthful trip mate asking, "Why (sic) dave? I like him but didn't know (sic) u did as much. Business angle?"
When the ever status conscious former insect exterminator turned House Majority Leader Tom Delay accompanied Abramoff to Scotland in 2000 he resided at the luxurious Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa in St. Andrews, Kingdom of Fife, Scotland.
Young Dave Safavian, Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, Ohio Congressman Bob Ney and the American Express card wielding Jack Abramoff likely, on their trips, economized at the 5-star Hilton Glasgow.
Poor babies.

Jennifer Safavian

Interestingly, Safavian’s wife Jennifer, once the counsel for the Enron-investigating (wink, wink) House Committee on Energy and Commerce, is now, according the New York Times:

Chief counsel for oversight and investigations on the House Government Reform Committee, which is responsible for overseeing government procurement and is, among other things, expected to conduct the Congressional investigation into missteps after Hurricane Katrina.

Dave and Jen, both graduates of the Michigan State University College of Law, told an Alumni Profile in 2002 that life in Washington, for a well-connected young couple, isn’t anything like life on West Wing.
According to Dave, “You always need to be thinking” while Jen confesses, “The more you’re around here the more you get involved in it. You can’t help it. It’s exciting.”
Something tells me that life for Dave and Jen is getting even more exciting!

Next, how about a little sublime?

I recently purchased Volume 2 of Norman Karlson’s new 4-volume Encyclopedia of American Art Tiles.
This particular book, a wonderful tool for any level of Midwestern Tile collecting, is filled with spectacular color plates of tiles, some of which have never been photographed before.
Good examples of these tiles are scarce and examples of these tiles covered in the most sought after glazes are even more rare.
The 6” X 18” American Encaustic Tile Company manufactured and Herman Mueller designed relief panel of a 19th century family interior scene shown here is about the best example of its kind known with a crisp mold and gorgeous blue glaze.
A note to collectors, when it was discovered this tile was encrusted with a sticky black tar-like substance and bore no resemblance to the glory that appeared after a slow and through cleaning.

Photos: Melina Mara-Washington Post,, sean
Monday, September 19, 2005

Congressman Davis and President Bush and a traumatized Biloxi, MI couple

On September 8, 2005, one day before a yet unfired FEMA Director Michael was sent back to Washington and 3 days after Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown and Root, received a $500 million dollar no bid contract for emergency repairs at hurricane-damaged navel and marine Gulf Coast facilities, President Bush, to most eyes still reeling from the consequences of his personal conduct toward the disaster, firmly grabbed a presidential pen and signed an Executive Order suspending federal law governing workers’ pay on federal contracts within the Katrina-devastated region.
Long hated by Republicans as a boon to organized labor, the law, Subchapter IV, Chapter 31, Title 40 of the United States Code, is commonly known as the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931.
Davis-Bacon, passed by Congress during the Great Depression, set a minimum pay scale [Section 3142(b) of title 40] for work on federal contracts by requiring contractors to pay the average wage common to the particular region in question.
Section 3147 of title 40 gives the President of the United States the power to “suspend the provisions of this subchapter during a national emergency.”
The President’s Executive Order found that “wage rates imposed by section 3142 of title 40, United States Code, increase the cost to the Federal Government of providing Federal assistance” [their suspension] “will result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals.”
According to a September 9th article in the Washington Post there is some disagreement with the President’s findings:

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney denounced the Bush announcement as "Outrageous…Employers are all too eager to exploit workers…what a double tragedy it would be…to depress living standards even further." Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, accused Bush of "using the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild their lives and their communities."

Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI), in a statement published by the blog Talking Points Memo on September 15th said:

"With a stroke of the pen, in one of his first Katrina directives, the President cut the wages of the workers who will undertake our largest reconstruction project since the Civil War."

In all the years since 1931, Davis-Bacon has been suspended three times prior to the September 8th order and only one previous time in response to a national disaster.
In 1934 President Franklin D. Roosevelt suspended the Act for three weeks to manage administrative adjustments for his New Deal.
President Richard M. Nixon in February 1971 suspended Davis-Bacon for 28 days "to reduce inflation pressures".
On October 14, 1992 President George Herbert Walker Bush, in the first suspension following a disaster, signed Proclamation 6491 temporarily lifting Davis-Bacon in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.
President William J. Clinton revoked Proclamation 6491 on March 6th 1993 with an Executive Order.
The blog Talking Points Memo has been tracking the “wiggly” positions of Republican Congressmen across the country regarding President George Walker Bush’s suspension of the prevailing wage in the Katrina-devastated areas:

Rep. Todd Akin's office (R-MO) is telling constituents that the Gulf Coast Wage Cut is standard operating procedure after a natural disaster…West Virginia Representative Shelley Moore Capito (R)…has "not taken a position [on the Wage Cut] but is in the process of formulating one”…Favorite answers from swing-district Republicans has them saying they're 'concerned' about it and want to make sure it's temporary…It has to be temporary…[The President] has no power to permanently overturn the law.

In a call to Kentucky’s 4th District Republican freshman Congressman Geoff Davis’ office earlier this afternoon, I asked “for the Congressman's position regarding the President’s suspension of Subchapter IV, Chapter 31, Title 40 of the United States Code.”
The young unidentified female voice answering the phone in Congressman Davis’ Washington, DC office acted as though she did not understand my question.
Taking my constituent particulars she said the Congressman would be happy to respond to my question in a letter.
I said that I’d prefer a more immediate response if possible.
She then asked if I was sure I wasn’t a member of the media.
“Yes” I replied, “I’m sure. I’m a constituent who would like to know the Congressman position regarding the President’s Executive Order”
“You mean the Davis-Bacon Act, right?” she asked.
“Yes” I replied while inwardly smiling at her pretense.
“I can pass this on and have someone get back to you later.”
“Can I expect a return call this afternoon?” I asked.
“I’m not sure.” She said.
Two hours later I, again, called Congressman Davis’ office and spoke to the same young woman.
She promised that she had passed my question along to the Congressman’s Legislative Assistant Armstrong Robinson and that he would eventually be getting back to me.
Before the call concluded I asked the young lady how she was so quickly able to determine that Subchapter IV, Chapter 31, Title 40 of the United States Code was indeed the Davis-Bacon Act.
“We’ve been getting a lot of mail on that.” She said.
“Oh,” I replied, “Are you sure the Congressman hasn’t formulated an official position you could relay to me now?"

Image:, Reuters, Los Angeles Times
Sunday, September 18, 2005
KY GOP Ignores Gov

Governor Fletcher and State GOP Chairman Brock

Last Wednesday, embattled Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher fired nine top-ranked members of his administration for involvement in the Merit System scandal, including Deputy Chief of Staff and former Kenton County Judge-Executive Dick Murgatroyd, and asked the Executive Committee of the state GOP to “ask for the resignation of the current chair" Darrell Brock, Jr., former Fletcher Local Development Head.
Last evening, in a mid term political shocker for Fletcher, during a 30-minute GOP executive meeting in Frankfort, party leaders ignored the Governor’s request.
According to the Associated Press:

Jefferson County GOP Chairman Jack Richardson IV, a member of the executive committee, said Fletcher did not submit a formal request for Brock's resignation…"I haven't received any formal notice that the governor has asked to remove anybody," Richardson said…Shirley West-Bennett, an executive committee member…said she was "very happy" with Brock…While she supports Fletcher "100 percent right now" it was uncertain whether that would extend beyond the governor's current term…"It's too far away," she said.

This stunning news and reversal of fortunes for Fletcher, who, along with his mentor Senator Mitch McConnell, once harbored desires for our nation’s highest offices, was reinforced by this portion of a Louisville Courier-Journal report:

An aide to Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, Lawrence Cox of Louisville, serves on the committee and left quickly after the meeting without commenting. A McConnell spokesperson did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

Democratic opinions, gathered from AP and LC-J reports, were not so coy:

"The Republican ship is still running wild out in the ocean," state Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Lundergan said. "It has no direction and it has no leadership."

State Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, said it…was a "slap in the face" for the executive committee to ignore Fletcher. "Politically, he is through. And if he doesn't know it by now, he doesn't read the tea leaves very well”.

Former U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford said it showed the GOP in Kentucky was "disintegrating."

Images: Conservative Voice, WKYT

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