AUSTIN -- "It's the little things, the itty-bitty things. It's the little things that really tick me off." --- song by Robert Earl Keene.

Gosh, silly us, getting in a swivet over war and peace. The president is on vacation! He's giving interviews to Runner's World, not "Meet the Press." He and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld didn't even talk about Iraq during their meeting at Crawford. It was all the media's fault. We were "churning," we were in "a frenzy." Heck, Bush himself has never even mentioned war with Iraq, much less going it alone.

We don't have to worry, so party hearty, and try not to make a big deal out of the fact that the Bush's lawyers are now claiming he can launch an attack on Iraq without Congressional approval because the permission given by Congress to his father in 1991 to wage war in the Persian Gulf is still in effect.

Since that's all cleared up, here are a few little nuggets you might like to chew on:

-- Bush went to Pennsylvania to meet with the nine coal miners rescued earlier this summer to congratulate them. He also cut the budget for the Mine Safety and Health Administration by $4.7 million out of $118 million total: enforcement was cut, the chest X-ray program was cut entirely, as were mine inspections for coal dust, which causes explosions. Bush filled five of the top positions at MSHA with coal industry executives.

-- Earlier this month, the Associated Press used a computer analysis to dig up some interesting news about Congressional spending patterns. Since the Republicans took over Congress in 1994, tens of billions of dollars in federal spending have moved from Democratic to GOP districts. Last year, there was an average of $612 million more spending for congressional districts represented by Republicans than by Democrats. AP also reports that when Democrats last controlled the House and wrote the budget, the average Democratic district got $35 million more than the average Republican district.

That's quite a shift, and the AP says the change was "driven mostly by Republican policies that moved spending from poor rural and urban areas to the more affluent suburbs and "GOP-leaning farm country ... In terms of services, that translates into more business loans and farm subsidies, and fewer public housing grants and food stamps."

Now one could take the attitude of Majority Leader Dick Armey, who was quoted by AP on this subject as saying, "To the victor goes the spoils." On the other hand, that means more government subsidies are going to people who need them less. The recently passed farm bill, a subject on which I find myself in complete harmony with the National Review, weighed in at $190 billion, a grossly disproportionate share going to corporate farmers: Ten percent of farmers will get 69 percent of the subsidies, according to The New York Times. President Bush signed the $190 billion horror and then made a great show at his public relations event in Waco, of vetoing $5 billion in what he deemed was unnecessary spending in the homeland security bill.

-- The media have achieved such a perfect he-said/she-said knot of confusion on the story of Bush and Harken energy, it would be a wonder if the public ever gets any of it straight. Even though the Center for Public Integrity has posted the relevant documents from Harken on its Web site, the news has been buried under a scrum of pundits shouting, "It's old news" or "Is not, it's new news." All I can say is, if Slick Willie Clinton had ever eeled out from under information like this, Rush Limbaugh would've had a heart attack.

Just for the record, George W. Bush had not just one but four Harken stock transactions worth more than $1 million during the time he was on the board. And in each case he was months over deadline in reporting the matter to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Second, newly posted documents show that Bush, who claims he had no idea Harken was in trouble when he dumped his stock in late June 1990, was in fact warned twice: Harken's CEO sent him a memo on June 7 predicting that Harken would run out of money before the end of the month and that it would then be in violation of numerous debt agreements.

Even more egregious, Bush was clearly involved in the phony Aloha Petroleum deal. Aloha was a Harken subsidiary that was sold to a partnership of Harken insiders at an inflated price, a perfect little gem of an example of the kind of fake, pump-the-bottom-line transaction later perfected by Enron. Bush's business career is a small-scale model of exactly the corrupt corporate practices now under fire.

In case you missed the theme here, it's hypocrisy.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2002 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.