Harris’ ‘Total Commitment’ to Campaign Short About $7 Million

Short change: The “Miami Herald” reports today that Fla. Rep. Katherine Harris did not make good on her promise to place her entire personal fortune of $10 million into her lagging campaign for U.S. Senate. Harris, who is trailing Sen. Bill Nelson by double digits and whose campaign has seen a mass exodus of staffers in the past week, only deposited $3 million into her campaign account.

Harris’ smaller-than-expected investment could further hurt her credibility, already damaged by a staff mutiny, tepid support from leaders of her own party and shifting explanations about her campaign finances. Last month, she said on television that the $10 million would come from an inheritance from her late father. Days later, after persistent questions from reporters, she said the money would come from selling off her own assets.

Harris’ new campaign spokesman, Chris Ingram, said Harris will invest $10 million by Election Day.

”The plan is still the same,” Ingram said. “You start with the foundation, and then you put up the walls and the roof.”

‘If the $3 million is a down payment toward $10 million, she’s like any other good investor’
— Kellyanne Conway

Sounds more like she’s holding out, waiting to see if the Republican Party is going to stop picking on her and start supporting her. After all, why shoot the moon on a horse that might not even finish the race?

Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway said the party needs to stop questioning Harris and rally around their presumptive nominee.

”You’d be hard pressed to find any other Republican candidate — especially one who invests $3 million — who receives such scrutiny,” she said. “If the $3 million is a down payment toward $10 million, she’s like any other good investor.”

Big “if.” That’s the problem with Katherine Harris — it’s not just about investing money, it’s about being 100 percent invested in the campaign and willing to, as we say in Cracker country, “Root, hog, or die.”

LitPAC: Reading Repugs Out of Office

Mighty, mighty pen: LitPAC is a coalition of authors that is planning a series of readings around the country to register voters and raise money for liberal candidates in the upcoming congressional elections.

Among those involved are Dave Eggers (“A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” McSweeney’s Internet Tendency), Jane Smiley (“Horse Heaven,” “Thousand Acres”) and Daniel Handler, aka “Lemony Snicket.”

‘We’re not George Soros; we’re not going to make a massive impact’ — Stephen Elliott

“We feel we can raise $75,000 in hard money for congressional candidates, at $5,000 apiece,” says LitPAC executive director Stephen Elliott, who has written four novels and a political memoir, “Looking Forward to It.”

“We’re not George Soros; we’re not going to make a massive impact. But if you ask any non-incumbent candidate if $5,000 is a big chunk of money, they’ll tell you it’s a very big chunk of money.”

Other LitPAC authors include Mary Gaitskill, whose “Veronica” was a finalist for the National Book Award, Tobias Wolff (“Colected Stories,” “This Boy’s Life”), Rick Moody (“Garden State,” “The Diviners”) and Anthony Swofford (“Jarhead : A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles.”)

What’s interesting to me is these authors are, except for Swofford, not overly political in their writing. They certainly are not militants. But it’s still way cool that they are doing this, so if they come to a bookstore or school near you, go.

Hope I Get Lucky in the Pandemic Lottery

Vaccination vascillation: Lenny Bruce used to have a line he would scream out in the middle of his act: “We’re all gonna die!” While the essential truth of that statement hasn’t changed, if the avian flu pandemic becomes a reality, some — scratch that — a lot of us are going to die sooner than a few others.

The National Journal interviewed Dr. Bruce Gellin, director of the National Vaccine Program Office at the Health and Human Services Department, about the nation’s vaccine supply. Overall, the news ain’t good.

According to Gellin, we can’t make enough vaccine right now to combat an avian-flu pandemic:

Because a pandemic will be caused by a virus that we’ve not experienced before, a pandemic vaccine is likely to be a much higher dose to achieve the immune response needed for protection. In studies that [the National Institutes of Health] conducted last year, we were sobered to learn that the vaccine dose was six times higher than what is in our seasonal flu shot and that two doses were required.

‘At two doses per person, we could vaccinate only 15 million to 20 million Americans in a year.’ — Dr. Bruce Gellin

We estimate that if we were to ask Sanofi to dedicate their facilities entirely to H5N1 vaccine, they could produce approximately 30 million to 40 million doses of H5N1 vaccine in a year. At two doses per person, we could vaccinate only 15 million to 20 million Americans in a year. Of course, this would also mean that the company would have to stop making next year’s flu vaccine in order to do this.

So how do we decide who gets the 15-20 million doses in the event the pandemic starts whipping up on us? Well, if it happens under the current president’s administration, poor people and people of color can forget it. Ditto old folks, gays and illegal immigrants. Here’s my prediction of how the flow chart of who would get the vaccine and in what order might look like:

1. First responders and all medical personnel
2. First family (extended), cabinet members and West Wing retainers
3. Four members of the Supreme Court
4. Most of the Senate
5. A little over half of the House of Representatives
6. White House press corps
7. “Wall Street Journal” Washington Bureau
8. All employees of Fox News Network, select CNN anchors and Bob Woodward
9. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell
10. Jackie Mason and Dennis Miller
11. Tony Blair and Gerald Ford
12. Straight military personnel deployed in Iraq

Have an idea of who else would be on the list? Leave us a comment!

Pensito Review: Off the Wires

College Students Get Rare Look at Cuba
HAVANA – Molly Morris didn’t realize how isolated Cubans are from the United States until a worker at her hotel asked for a U.S. map to see where she and other visiting American college students came from. Of course, being an American, Morris could not find Nebraska on the map.

John Paul Still a Presence, a Year Later
WARSAW, Poland – Poles mark the first anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s death Sunday with their beloved native son still very much a public presence, with some here even crediting him with continued influence in the strongly Roman Catholic country’s politics. Who ya gonna call? Pope Busters!

Fake E-Mail Topples Japan Opposition Party
TOKYO – Japan’s opposition party suffered a fresh humiliation Friday when its leadership resigned en masse over a fake e-mail scandal, handing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi an uncontested grip on power in his last six months in office. The e-mail purportedly began: “You are big winner of International Rotto ….”

Taiwan Rejects China’s Offer of Pandas
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Tuan Tuan the panda won’t be following in the footsteps of his mother and grandparents as a goodwill ambassador for China. Taiwan on Friday rejected China’s offer of the panda and a female mate, Yuan Yuan, in the latest sign of a hardening attitude toward its communist neighbor. President Koo Kuan-min issued a statement in which he said, “Accepting the mainland’s panda pandering would open a Pandora’s box that will only lead to a pandemic of pandemonium for Taiwan.”

Resurrecting Terri

No rest in peace: A year ago today, Terri Schiavo shuffled off her mortal coil, ending a two-decades-long family saga that managed by turns to be tragic and ludicrous. There are two books out about the case, one by Terri’s husband, Michael Schiavo, and a competing one by the Schindler family. Now, a year after she died peacefully, blissfully unaware of the personal and political forces her persistent vegetative state had inspired, Florida conservatives are exhuming her for their political ends.

I received today a “Conservative Alert” (co-editor Trish does not understand how or why I subject myself to this stuff, but it helps to know one’s enemy, not to mention it provides content for the Review) from wingnuts William Greene and Randall Terry.

The letter begins this way:

It is hard to believe that today — March 31 — marks the one-year anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s brutal death by starvation. I’m still grieving over the fact that our elected officials allowed a tin pot dictator judge to starve an innocent woman to death.

Greene, who wrote the first letter, goes on the mention Terri’s “public execution” and her “struggle for life” as a way to introduce Randall Terry’s campaign for Florida Senate against the evil Jim King. According to Greene:

Senator King callously said, “I want her to die.” Senator King made it his personal mission to ensure that she was starved to death, and successfully recruited eight other Republican senators in his mission. If we had had just three of their votes, she would still be alive!

“We support the right to life! And that includes the right of all handicapped and severely injured people to live without fear of starvation!”
— Randall Terry, Republican

Then Randall Terry gets wound up in a letter that has no less than four — count ’em — four links to donate to his campaign:

Please understand this — the vast majority of the voters in the upcoming election were ardent supporters of Terri Schiavo’s right to life! Moreover, the vast majority of the voters in this district support the right to life of the unborn. My opponent, Jim King, is an ardent supporter of abortion on demand as well as the chief voice for Terri’s starvation.

I, on the other hand, am a strong supporter of the right to life.

And to add insult to injury — he supports a number of left-wing causes such as special rights for homosexuals, including the right for openly homosexual couples to adopt children!

And as if that is not enough — he is now under an ethics investigation for an illegal private plane ride to a major gambling casino in Canada. He is mired in scandal, and saddled with the burden of a record in the Senate that is against the values of the majority of the voters.

By giving Terry money, he says, you will be saying to the world, “We support the right to life! And that includes the right of all handicapped and severely injured people to live without fear of starvation!”

It was bad enough when the Florida legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush started passing laws to prolong Schiavo’s vegetative state, but then Senate Majority Leader and physician Bill Frist started diagnosing from the podium and George Bush came out of vacation to chime in to try and save the brain-dead woman. But for Greene and Terry to raise the dead in support of a hyper-conservative agenda is just, well, I suppose it’s just par for the course in a case that seems not to have a lowest point.

R.I.P. Terri Schiavo, if they’ll only let you.

Shortage of Cronies Getting Critical

No friends in high places: You can tell it’s a lame-duck administration when Congress threatens to withhold appropriations from the Department of Homeland Security until the agency fills a bunch of top-level posts, including director. Come on, there must be some ex-horse show execs or wives of admin flunkies out there somewhere to fill these high-level positions at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

With hurricane season only two months away, those of us who live in the subtropics are distressed to learn that FEMA is staffed at only 73 percent of its funded capacity and that, besides the fact that “Brownie” has not been permanently replaced, 40 percent of the agency’s division and regional chiefs are only “acting.”

‘Let the word go forth from this place that we want a permanent director of FEMA and we want these regional directors and division directors to stop acting and be permanent.’
— Harold Rogers

According to the Congress Daily, the House committee that oversees DHS appropriations thinks this situation deserves attention. House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-KY, offered up a hilarious quote while threatening to withhold fiscal 2007 appropriations for the positions if they are not filled:

“I want people in these positions where we can look them square in the eye . . . and get a commitment from them,” Rogers said. “Let the word go forth from this place that we want a permanent director of FEMA and we want these regional directors and division directors to stop acting and be permanent.”

“Let the word go forth from this place” sounds rather biblical to me, and I think we’ve all had quite enough “acting” from the FEMA folks. In an attempt to top Rogers’ over-the-top quote, the “acting” director gave the kind of emphatic reply we’ve all come to expect from FEMA:

Acting FEMA Director R. David Paulison told the panel that he has directed the agency to achieve a 95 percent staffing level by June 1, the start of the next hurricane season. He said the agency probably will not meet that goal, but will come “very darn close.”

He also said FEMA will have a permanent director by June 1, but declined to say if that will be him. “I serve at the pleasure of the president and will do what he asks me to do,” Paulison said.

With that kind of attitude, Paulison likely will go far — heckuva job, Paulie!