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Most all our attention

Most all our attention is rightly, understandably focused on this disaster unfolding along the Gulf Coast. But take a moment to learn about this stampede on a bridge over the Tigris river today in which up to 1000 people died. Shi'a pilgrims were crossing the bridge when a fast-spreading rumor that a suicide bomber was about to detonate himself in the crowd led to panic and a rush to escape.

Late Update: A late report puts the number at a staggring 965 dead.

Im sorry. I know

I'm sorry. I know we're supposed to be observing an accountability free moment for the president. But there are just too many examples out there of the ways in which his policies have contributed to and accentuated this crisis: systematic cuts in levee and pump construction around New Orleans (second article here), phasing out FEMA and the apparently the whole concept of national coordination of the response to natural disasters. That's a great idea, isn't it? Similar failings are discussed by Bruce W. Jentleson and Juliette Kayyem at TPMCafe. And, of course, example after example of cronies running critical agencies. Anyone want to give a buzz to Joe Allbaugh over at New Bridge Strategies?

The scene of any natural disaster, especially one of such grave magnitude, will invariably be chaotic. Much won't go according to plan. But a lot of people seem to have been caught unprepared in this mess, a lot of preparedness agencies appear to have missed a few beats in getting on top of it.

Yes, let's save everyone and everything we can. People on the scene and in the surrounding region are pulling together in amazing ways. But no more letting this man's failures become his own argument against accountability. It's always been a live-for-today presidency.

Like you Ive been

Like you I've been watching the escalating scale of the destruction down along the Gulf Coast. Rather than giving my own reactions or not-particularly-well-informed views of what's happening, I've put together a series of emails I've received over the last forty-eight hours from TPM Readers in the path of the storm. I've posted them here at TPMCafe.

No doubt you remember

No doubt, you remember that a couple weeks back The Washington Post published a story on Jack Abramoff which included unrebutted claims from DeLay surrogates that the Majority Leader had cut all ties to Abramoff way back in early February 2001, just after one of Abramoff's erstwhile business associates, Gus Boulis, was murdered in a gangland hit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

As the Post related it ...

Earlier this year, DeLay told a group of conservative supporters at a private meeting that sometime shortly after SunCruz Casinos founder Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis was gunned down in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Feb. 6, 2001, he confronted Abramoff over his SunCruz involvement, according to people in attendance.

"Immediately, he had Abramoff called in and told him, 'I want no more dealings with you,' " said conservative activist Paul M. Weyrich, a longtime DeLay friend, recounting a speech DeLay gave to a conservative group earlier this year. "I think he felt blindsided by Abramoff" over the SunCruz affair, Weyrich said.


To the best of my knowledge, the Post has yet to follow up on or rebut this palpably ludicrous claim. So I've continued to keep an eye out for examples which show just how clearly untrue the claims are.

And I think I have another.

Fully two years after the alleged DeLay-Abramoff smackdown, that is, in early February 2003, the DeLays (Tom and Christine) and the Abramoffs (Jack and Pam) joined Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin and his wife Irene for a private dinner in the Washington area. Apparently, everyone really hit it off. And, needless to say, the gathering was arranged by Jack Abramoff.

Now, before going any further, let's stipulate that little schmooze-fests like these happen all the time in Washington. And I have no reason to believe that anything untoward was discussed or transacted. My understanding is that conversation turned on the normal mix of politics and fundraising -- in this case, apparently, fundraising for one of DeLay's charities. My only reason for noting it is to demonstrate (which I think it does pretty handily) the close professional and personal relationship the DeLays continued to have with Abramoff at least until early 2003.

Someday maybe even the Post will revisit this part of the story.

When asked about details of the meeting, Abramoff spokesman Andrew Blum declined comment. Calls to DeLay's press office were not returned.

Amazing. This is a

Amazing. This is a newsflash from a local TV station in New Orleans, about Jefferson parish (emphasis in the original): "Jeff Parish President. Residents will probably be allowed back in town in a week, with identification only, but only to get essentials and clothing. You will then be asked to leave and not come back for one month."

Late Update: Here, from the Times-Picayune, is a piece with much more detail on the recovery plan for Jefferson parish.

Mideast analyst Kenneth Pollack

"Mideast analyst Kenneth Pollack is one of two U.S. government officials referenced in the indictment against two former staffers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee" says JTA.

The reference he is to the two unnamed US government officials who were referenced in the AIPAC/Larry Franklin indictments that came down early this month. Pollack says he thinks he was "USG0-1".

I'm a bit surprised this hasn't gotten more play.

Far be it from

Far be it from me to come to the defense of Jack Abramoff. But I think the direction of the story, for the foreseeable future, will largely be a matter of how well various of the DC GOP's power-players will be able to distance themselves from Abramoff. As I've said before, this whole tangle of transactions was an organized operation that went way beyond Jack Abramoff. It was a slush fund, part of a patronage operation that helped run the DC Republican machine. (As we wrote a few days ago, just what were California and Mississippi Indian tribes doing maxing out to the New Hampshire Republican party just a few days before the 2002 election?)

So now, with Abramoff pinned down under multiple different federal investigations, we can watch the big players in that machine try to retrospectively cut themselves off from all connections to Jack and cauterize the resulting wound as best they can.

So who are the players to watch?

First, of course, Tom DeLay. Then Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed (on a quixotic run for state-wide office in Georgia), Karl Rove (a central part of the whole operation), Bob Ney, Conrad Burns, all the members of Congress who were sending those messages to Abramoff begging for yet more access to the SunCruz-funded skyboxes, the mid-level cabinet appointees Abramoff owned.

This is where to watch.

An end to the

An end to the Likud? Reuters has a piece out this morning reporting that the perrenial opportunist and bad-actor Benjamin Netanyahu has just launched a bid to replace Ariel Sharon as head of the Likud.

The Gaza pullout has had strong majority support in Israel, albeit with a sizeable and extremely vocal minority against it. But as this article points out, Sharon would almost certainly lose a primary battle with Netanyahu for control of the Likud -- at least if it were held today. So rumors are now circulating that Sharon might leave the Likud and form a new center-right or centrist party or bloc to contest the next general election, which he seems to be in commanding position to win.

WhamoGov. Ernie Fletcher R

Whamo!

Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) of Kentucky and a slew of people from his adminsitration have been embroiled for some time now in a big government personnel scandal. And he just called a press conference and basically pardoned everybody.

I think this is what Republicans call decisive leadership.

Fletcher says he'll appear before the grand jury himself tomorrow; but he won't talk.

Have thoughts you want to share on this? We just set up this discussion thread over at the Republicans discussion table. Particularly interested in hearing from Kentuckians who've been watching this unfold up close.

Late Update: This turns out to be a bit more complicated than it looked on first glance. The BlueGrassReport has the running details.

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