Our Vagetarian in Washington

Goddamn, this news cycle just never stops, does it? I was ready to expound on the fantastic Katrina benefit my colleague and friend Jim Washburn threw with the folks from the Gypsy Den last week, with proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity.

Fuck the Red Cross!

I was going to hearten the OC faithful, who, last time I saw data for it, gave $1.38 per person in charitable giving—per year—by telling them they don't have to give to the Red Cross anymore, because it turns out the feds contract with them for just these events. And it turns out you don't have to give to your church anymore either, because our friends at the Family Research Council started hitting the airwaves to whine that the gubmint wasn't paying them for the "faith-based" work of housing Katrina evacuees—and, as usual, what the Family Research Council wants, the Family Research Council gets. It also also turns out that even though the feds reimburse the faith-based for their "charity," they don't reimburse you.

But the Red Cross? Aside from the fact they've already been paid, they've become as cronyist and GOP-controlled and (almost) as inept as FEMA, which itself is as cronyist and GOP-controlled and (probably) as inept as the original Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority, which was literally being run by 24-year-old Republican legislative aides like it was spring break in Cancun. Cronyist . . . GOP-controlled . . . inept . . . oh, yes: Have you met the FDA? They tried last week to appoint a veterinarian as head of Women's Health(the previous head had resigned due to all the cronyism and GOP-controlled ineptitude), but they probably just confused it with "vagetarian." I don't know that reading's really their thing.

* * *

So that's what I was going to talk about, and I guess I just did. But then the news happened.

And, as news here is wont to do, since institutional memory ain't really our strong suit, it made all the other news flit away like Bobby Ewing's bad dream.

Take Katrina, and the Hobbesian/Randian "folks" who'd be perfectly happy to bring back the Mongol hordes—and who smugly used one particularly fuckwad administration to indict the whole concept of government as if it were Tom DeLay. (They don't want us to expect anything from our society—the whole concept of "civilization" and its social contract being frustratingly Enlightenment/New Deal—unless we're a Bush boy, in which case we can take it to the bank! Or, rather, take apart the bank. I'd known about Neil, but did you know Jeb had a savings and loan of his very own? Yeah, he socked it to Broward Federal Savings for a cool $4.5 mil. Genghis in '08!) Well, as soon as Rita didn't take out Houston, Katrina was in the wind.

Yes, there's new news now, and the old news is so two weeks ago, while we've got a new Category Four shitstorm that's been engulfing our Republican friends over the past week. What can you say about a party that has each of its majority leaders (House and Senate) either under investigation or flat-out indicted? Whose chief procurement officer (whose work included Katrina) was led out of the White House in handcuffs? Whose efforts to smear critics may have fallen into unparsed treason when they outed an undercover CIA operative who tracked loose nukes—a smear campaign that might have its genesis in the VP's office? Just how many pardons will the president bestow?

With all the new news, nobody's even got room to note the General Accounting Office determined this week that all those folks in the Department of Education who paid Armstrong Williams to write op-eds lauding No Child Left Behind acted illegally; there won't be a perp walk because the laws in question—forbidding the government from propagandizing—well, they carry no penalty.

When Democrats get handsy with the cookie jar, they resign before Democratic voters can fire them. (Exceptions, as always, for Marion Berry.) When Republicans get handsy with the cookie jar, they blame the person who caught them for "partisanship." I used to have a boyfriend who did that. It was the most amazing thing: he had four girlfriends but would scream that I was cheating on him. And, come to think of it, he was a Republican too!

When the Bookie of Virtues, Bill Bennett, put his foot in his mouth but good last week (by saying if "you wanted to reduce crime . . . if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. It would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but the crime rate would go down"), he didn't just admit that his ad absurdum argument was fatally and racistly flawed and ask for forgiveness. He blamed it on partisanship. "I am in the midst of a political battle based on a coordinated campaign willfully distorting my views, my record and my statements," he said.

In DeLay's case, he called Travis County DA Ronnie Earle a "partisan fanatic" among other choice slurs. Did you know Ronnie Earle, a Democrat whose 15 political cases focused on 12 Dems and just three Republicans—once prosecuted himself?

In my part of the world, we call that "taking personal responsibility." But that thing DeLay did? Oh, who cares? He's a dick.

Like I said, the GOP's had a tough week.

So how do you change a news cycle?

Meet Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.

Or don't, because by the time this column comes out, she'll probably have met a nanny problem she can't refuse. The Family Research Council ain't too hot on her, and what the Family Research Council wants . . . oh, I already said that.

* * *

Look, Americans aren't assholes. Well, some are. Actually, I know several. But most of us don't approve of crooks handing out bought-and-paid-for government favors or want to get up in our neighbors' business. Most of us do believe in a social contract that mandates we take care of the least among us, in case we're ever the least-among-us ourselves. Most of us don't want to live in Calcutta, with its great divides, or behind walls in luxury while children without dig through the garbage of their favelas—although I guess you wouldn't know it in Newport Coast. Most of us are a little racist sometimes, but at least we get embarrassed when we recognize it and try not to do it again. And most of us don't want more than our fair share, just a nice, middle-class existence where an illness won't send you into bankruptcy, where maybe you can actually own a damn home. My grandmother always said wealth wasn't about what you had, it was about what you didn't need. Of course, she was a Jew, and a Great Depression New Dealer at that.

Still: fucking Newport.



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