It seems to me that:

--Michael Brown is in denial if he believes, as he said at yesterday's congressional hearing, that his mistake was not holding more press briefings during Katrina. Given that his "heck of a job" didn't include staying on top of the 20,000 desperate souls at the New Orleans Convention Center, perhaps it's just as well that he had limited contact with reporters. And why is his reward after quitting to stay on the FEMA payroll for another month?

--No one is going to confuse George W. with Jimmy Carter, even if, as ABC's Terry Moran noted, Bush is the first president to make such an explicit plea for energy conservation since Carter donned a sweater and put solar panels on the White House roof. This is, after all, the first time in five years that Bush has asked Americans to cut back, and he hasn't forced anyone (like auto companies) to do anything (like improve their average mileage).

--Cindy Sheehan looked awfully happy while getting arrested, like she was mugging for the cameras. Could she possibly miss being in the news?

--The media have done a poor job of describing who was behind Saturday's big antiwar demo in D.C. This is in no way to cast aspersions on the tens of thousands of ordinary folks who showed up to demonstrate their opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq. But many journalists shortchanged their readers and viewers in not saying more about the radical group ANSWER.

The Washington Post offered this brief description of ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice: "Both groups have sponsored other major demonstrations against the war in Iraq but also protested U.S. foreign policy in places ranging from Haiti to the Gaza Strip."

I wonder if the media would have resorted to such shorthand in covering a group as far to the right as ANSWER is to the left. In Slate, Christopher Hitchens | blames journalistic laziness:

"Saturday's demonstration in Washington, in favor of immediate withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq, was the product of an opportunistic alliance between two other very disparate 'coalitions.' Here is how the New York Times (after a front-page and an inside headline, one of them reading 'Speaking Up Against War' and one of them reading 'Antiwar Rallies Staged in Washington and Other Cities') described the two constituenciess of the event:

"The protests were largely sponsored by two groups, the Answer Coalition, which embodies a wide range of progressive political objectives, and United for Peace and Justice, which has a more narrow, antiwar focus.

"The name of the reporter on this story was Michael Janofsky. I suppose that it is possible that he has never before come across 'International ANSWER,' the group run by the 'Worker's World' party and fronted by Ramsey Clark, which openly supports Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, and the 'resistance' in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Clark himself finding extra time to volunteer as attorney for the genocidaires in Rwanda. Quite a 'wide range of progressive political objectives' indeed, if that's the sort of thing you like. However, a dip into any database could have furnished Janofsky with well-researched and well-written articles by David Corn and Marc Cooper -- to mention only two radical left journalists -- who have exposed 'International ANSWER' as a front for (depending on the day of the week) fascism, Stalinism, and jihadism."

Andrew Sullivan | is equally appalled:

"I'm sorry, but I can respect criticism of the conduct of this war. In fact, I find it hard to respect those who refuse to subject the conduct of this war to constructive criticism. But I cannot respect the organizations and agenda that pollute such legitimate criticism, or their fellow-travelers. Anyone who attends rallies organized by International ANSWER deserves no quarter and no hearing. And the notion that abruptly abandoning the beleaguered Iraqi people to the tender mercy of Jihadists is somehow 'progressive' boggles the mind. As Hitch observed of the motley crew in Washington last weekend: 'Was there a single placard saying, 'No to Jihad'? Of course not. Or a single placard saying, 'Yes to Kurdish self-determination' or 'We support Afghan women's struggle'? Don't make me laugh.'"

Columbia Journalism Review | says ANSWER is affiliated with the World Workers Party, which "was started as an offshoot of the Communist party in the late 1950s, and it supported not only Mao's Cultural Revolution but also the Soviet repression of Hungary. Basically a bunch of Neo-Stalinists, it has continued to revere that Soviet dictator, in spite of his murderous purges, has supported North Korea, and has praised a whole series of dictators who ran ostensibly socialist regimes, from Saddam Hussein to Slobodan Milosevic...There is no reason to avoid this information."

On the FEMA front, the Los Angeles Times |,0,5530667.story?coll=la-home-headlines reports:

"Former FEMA Director Michael Brown today blamed much of what went wrong with the government's response to Hurricane Katrina on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, telling a House committee that the key elected officials were 'dysfunctional' as the hurricane bore down on New Orleans...

"But Brown also blamed the Department of Homeland Security, and indirectly, the Bush administration, for what he said was FEMA's emaciated state. His agency, he said, has suffered from budget cuts and a shortage of qualified personnel since it was subsumed within the gigantic department."

Maybe a director with more clout might have made a public issue out of this . . . before it was too late.

Salon's Michael Scherer | calls the GOP-led inquiry a "whitewash":

"In other words, Brown's only regrets appeared to be the behavior of others."

He also regrets . . . the behavior of the Fourth Estate:

"Brown accused the media of lying about his qualifications and offered sworn affidavits attesting to his experience," says USA Today | "He also explained his TV statement that he was unaware that evacuees were thousands of people stranded at New Orleans' convention center with food, water or medical care. 'I was just tired and misspoke.'"

Well, that explains it!

Another Katrina-related resignation, as reported by the New York Times |

The police superintendent of New Orleans, Edwin P. Compass III, abruptly resigned today, four weeks after Hurricane Katrina put the city under water and into chaos, with people who had stayed behind left for days to fend for themselves amid reports of looting and lawlessness.

Compass offered no reason. Maybe, oh, I don't know, falsely saying there had been "little babies" being raped inside the Superdome?

Maureen Dowd scoffs at Bush's new conservation message: "We've got two oilmen in the White House whose administration was built on urging us to consume and buy as much oil and energy as possible. Now they're suddenly urging us to conserve." Bush, she says, "set a fine example by wasting gazillions of gallons of fuel with all the planes and Secret Service vans and press motorcades and police escorts that follow him around every time he goes on one of his inane photo-ops from the Colorado bunker to what's left of the Mississippi Delta and the Bayou."

Has it come to this: The White House blaming Laura? Kevin Drum | thinks so:

"The Washington Post | reports that the White House staff is unhappy with George Bush's recent lack of mojo. . . . Personally, I think these unnamed aides have drunk too much of their own Kool-Aid. There are only a small number of extremely specialized situations in which 'swagger' can carry you through, and the response to 9/11 was one of them. The fact that it worked there, though, doesn't mean it's likely to work anywhere else...

"I'm actually linking to this story mainly because I was fascinated by one person's choice of scapegoat:

"A top Republican close to the White House since the earliest days said the absence of a 'reelection target' and pressure from first lady Laura Bush and others to soften his second-term tone conspired to temper Bush's swagger well before Katrina hit. . . . .Since the election, this official said, White House aides reported that Laura Bush was among those counseling Bush to change his cowboy image during the final four years.

"Poor Laura. Of all the first ladies in recent memory, she seems the least blameworthy for her husband's political travails. After all, she doesn't consult astrologers, she doesn't call opponents 'bitches,' and she hasn't been responsible for the failure of a massive healthcare initiative. But she still ends up in the pages of the Post being blamed for the President's insufficient second term swagger.

"Really, boys, isn't the fact that Social Security blew up, Iraq is a mess, Katrina was a disaster, dozens of Republicans are under an ethics cloud, and one lone mother managed to ruin the presidential vacation -- well, isn't that enough? These aides should be looking in a mirror instead of the presidential bedroom."

On the porkbusters front, American Prospect's Matthew Yglesias | says the hit list of House GOP conservatives "partakes heavily of a much-beloved Republican tactic: using phase-ins to obscure what's really happening. In the first year, 78 percent of the cuts come from delaying the implementation of the scheduled Medicare prescription-drug benefit and rolling back earmarks attached to the recent highway bill. Both are genuinely wasteful, though neither is 100-percent waste, so both proposals look to be on a good path. Both, however, are one-time savings, not enduring elements of the budget. In year two of the plan, for example, 0 percent of the cuts come from those measures. In year three, it's also zero percent. Year four? Zero percent. You get the idea. By the time you look at the full 10-year picture, only about 10 percent of the cuts are coming from these wasteful endeavors. Almost half, meanwhile, is accounted for by the cryptic 'Block Grant Medicaid Acute Services.' What this means is that instead of providing an amount of money for emergency medical services equal to the amount necessary to provide acute services to everyone who's eligible, the government will appropriate too little and just let poor people not get treatment when they're sick.

"Say what you will about the idea of making sure poor people get treatment when they fall ill, but this isn't 'waste' by any standard definition. It's just something conservatives don't care about."

At Powerline |, Paul Mirengoff says: "I confess to being amused by the internet pork-busters campaign. It's not that eliminating pork is a bad thing. But some of the pork-busters seem to feel that they are trying to save the House and Senate Republicans from themselves. I suspect it's more accurate to say that pork-busting presents the scenario most likely to lead to the Republicans losing control of Congress."

But John Hinderaker says: "Almost all Republican politicians have themselves endorsed limited government principles as candidates. So for a Republican politician, the calculus can be different. People like pork--'local issues,' as Paul says--but in many districts, a Republican politician who offends a big chunk of his base, while looking like a hypocrite in the process, could be in trouble. Besides, most Republican politicians are sincere when they talk about cutting federal spending and eliminating waste. While aware of the political benefit of bacon, they are at best ambivalent about it. . . .

"Over the last generation we have seen the triumph of small-government rhetoric coexisting with the greatest explosion of federal domestic spending in history. But it would be premature to write off the anti-pork effort."

OpinionJournal's Brendan Miniter | sees much higher stakes for the GOP:

"Republicans have held the House for almost 12 years and have occupied the White House for all but eight of the past 25 years, yet they have failed to shut off the spending valves in Washington. It was only a matter of time before Democrats ran against wasteful Republican spending. It's also not surprising that Democrats would claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility, for that claim has won them elections in the past. . . .

"Republicans were sent to Washington in the 1950s to repeal the New Deal. Voters sent them packing when it became clear they were big spenders. In the 1990s Republicans were sent to Washington to repeal the Great Society. If they too turn out to be big spenders, they can expect a similar fate."

In National Review, Rich Lowry | proclaims McCain the '08 front-runner--with a major caveat:

"After Katrina and the countless billions of dollars that began pouring toward the Gulf Coast, conservatives clamored for spending offsets elsewhere in the budget, and there was McCain right there with them, excoriating pork-barrel spending (as he always has) and calling for repeal of the massive new Medicare prescription-drug entitlement. In a major battle between conservatives in Congress who want to cut spending and the party's leadership, which is -- to put it mildly -- unenthusiastic about the prospect, McCain is with the conservative rebels.

"This is so important because, if he runs, McCain is probably the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. But he's an odd front-runner, a front-runner whose campaign is almost certainly doomed unless he handles conservatives better than he did in 2000. McCain will come out of the gate with formidable assets, among them near-universal name recognition, media adulation and credibility as a serious candidate. But if he again lets another major candidate get to his right on nearly everything -- as he let President Bush in 2000 -- his campaign will again attract independents, but not the Republicans who are by definition necessary to win the Republican nomination."

Hey, don't underestimate "media adulation."

Arianna Huffington | slaps Bill Frist around over his now-under-investigation stock sale:

"After all, the Good Doctor has had ample opportunity to examine the conflict question. He insisted owning HCA stock wasn't a conflict back in 1994 when he first ran for the Senate -- and the stock was trading at $27 a share. He was just as adamant in 1999 when the issue was raised during his efforts to block President Clinton's patients' bill of rights -- and the stock was at $24. And again in 2003, when he championed the Medicare prescription drug bill that directly benefited HCA -- and the stock was at $41. And again in 2004, when consumer groups cried foul about his involvement in the debate over malpractice reform (another potential financial boon to HCA) -- and the stock was at $40.

"So, if owning HCA stock wasn't a conflict of interest when it was trading at $24, $27, $40, and $41 a share, why did it suddenly become a problem at $58 a share? Was the Majority Leader's sudden burst of ethical sensitivity due to the latest round of complaints raised by . . . oh, sorry, there weren't any complaints. Then maybe it was the brewing firestorm over . . . hmm, there wasn't a firestorm either.

"Or could it, just maybe, I don't know...have been part and parcel of a massive stock sell-off by HCA insiders?"

Is there an online black market for NYT columnists who now cost non-subscribers $49.95 a year? Blogger John Tabin | says he wasn't intentionally providing free access:

"I never intended to play Napster to the Times's Mettalica; if I did, I wouldn't have signed my name to the site.

"So here's what I'll do. When I know there's a bootleg copy out there, I still won't link to it, but I will put up a link that says '(Bootleg available)' and point it to this post. You are free to search for those yourself. Try Technorati and Google Groups. But proceed with the understanding that I'm not endorsing such piracy; if you're a blogger who's posting NYT columns, don't expect me to back you up against the Times's legal team."

I guess the columnists should be pleased that they're in such demand.

Finally, from the AP |,0,130253.story?coll=la-tot-promo&track=pacifictime, comes word of a Supreme Court case that the cable networks will actually be interested in:

"The Supreme Court shed its staid image today, giving stripper-turned Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith a new chance at a piece of the fortune of her 90-year-old late husband." Can Greta, Abrams, Toobin and company be far behind?