Prosecute the torture.

December 31, 2006

ACTION ALERT: GOP Trying to Seize Back PA House!

On November 7th the people of Pennsylvania voted to give control of the PA House back to the Democrats.

Now, Pay-raise Perzel and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania are poised to subvert the will of the people.

Much like the infamous 2 AM pay grab, Republican John Perzel waited until the Saturday of a holiday weekend to orchestrate the announcement that after leaving no stone unturned, he has found a turncoat Democrat to vote to keep him in as Speaker of the House. (From the P-G: 'Mr. Perzel, a Republican from Philadelphia, has refused to vacate his suite of offices on the first floor of the Capitol, fueling speculation that he was working on a Democrat to "flip."')

Paul McKrell Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Young Democrats points out:
With the vote for Speaker scheduled on January 2nd, this doesn't give the citizens of this commonwealth adequate time to register our disgust at the despicable tactics of a Republican party that no longer enjoys the confidence of Pennsylvania voters.
The "Democrat" who will assist Perzel in overturning the voters' will is State Representative Thomas Caltagirone of Berks County (some details of the deal he made can be found here).

State Rep Mark Cohen wrote a diary about this at Daily Kos which was front-paged by the editors there. You can find it here. In that diary, Cohen makes the following excellent point:
An elected official who cannot support one's party to take the majority is not really representing his party and the people who voted for it. Had Caltagirone told his constituents in 2006 when he was threatened with Democratic primary opposition that he would support the Republican nominee for Speaker if the Democrats won the majority, he would not have won the nomination. Freedom of conscience should not be the same as freedom to misrepresent one's beliefs.
Now, here's what you need to do:
1. Call Caltagirone at 610-371-9940 (Reading) or 717-787-3525 (Harrisburg) and ask him to reverse his decision. (Fax #'s: 610-378-4406 or 717-772-5401)

2. E-mail Caltagirone at tcaltagi@pahouse.net and ask him to stand for the progressive Democratic principles on which he was elected and supported for decades. Vote NO on Perzel as Speaker!

3. If you have a Republican State Rep, contact them. Tell them you are tired of the inept, regressive leadership of John Perzel. Tell them that you voted for a Democratic Majority, and that their job is to ensure that the people's voice is heard. You can find your state representatives telephone number by typing in your zip code in the upper right hand box of http://www.legis.state.pa.us This is important as there are rumored to already be some Republican's who may not vote for Perzel.

4. Attend the New Year's Day rally on Monday at 3:00 PM outside of Caltagirone's District Office, 645 Penn St. in Reading, PA.
Call now and leave a message -- there is no time to waste!

December 29, 2006

On the Occasion of John McIntire's Last Flip Side Show


I'm tempted to just write a big
THIS SUCKS!

because it does.

If, as the New York Times says, The Carbolic Smoke Ball is Pittsburgh's version of The Onion, then certainly John McIntire's The Flip Side is our very own Countdown with Keith Olbermann (High praise indeed if you know how many times we've quoted that show on this blog).

McIntire not only spoke truth to power, in addition to all the usual suspects you'd expect as guests on a local talk show, John featured an entire universe of alternative regulars: bloggers (including this blog), lesbians, twenty-somethings who were given as much credibility and airtime as established talking heads.

But, most importantly, John brought the funny...he brought the snark. And there's no better way to burst the bubble of pomposity of those in power than making your audience laugh at them night after night. Don't get me wrong. He could delve into great detail on real issues too, but how much better when that's followed up with some great snarky remark or comedy bit?

Which brings me to my very own little conspiracy theory.

I was less than thrilled when John's NightTalk TV show ended abruptly as the 2004 election was really gearing up. And, now it seems to me to be a little too convenient that The Flip Side is coming to an end right before the 2007 primary election for mayor starts up.

Mayor Luke "Opie" Ravenstahl just got a present too large for his Christmas stocking. And, that sucks too.

Yeah, John can continue to keeps tabs on Luke from his Pittsburgh City Paper column and his blog (MacYapper), but that ain't quite the same thing as blasting over KDKA's big airwaves.

John will hopefully be coming back on an FM forum in the spring, but does that mean spring as in March or spring as in June?

[sigh]

I know I --and many of you -- will be counting the days.

Now go listen to John and his last historic Flip Side show!

December 28, 2006

Gerald Ford on Dubya's War

In case you missed it in the Washington Post:
Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.
Remember, this was July 2004.
In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."
This was the same month that Dubya said:
Three years ago, the ruler of Iraq was a sworn enemy of America, who provided safe haven for terrorists, used weapons of mass destruction, and turned his nation into a prison. Saddam Hussein was not just a dictator; he was a proven mass murderer who refused to account for weapons of mass murder. Every responsible nation recognized this threat, and knew it could not go on forever.

America must remember the lessons of September the 11th. We must confront serious dangers before they fully materialize. And so my administration looked at the intelligence on Iraq, and we saw a threat. Members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence, and they saw a threat.

In 2002, the United Nations Security Council yet again demanded a full accounting of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. As he had for over a decade, Saddam Hussein refused to comply. In fact, according to former weapons inspector David Kay, Iraq's weapons programs were elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. So I had a choice to make: Either take the word of a madman, or defend America. Given that choice, I will defend America every time.
Geez, that Gerald Ford was such a lilly livered surrender monkey, wasn't he? I mean Dubya decided to defend America - and since Ford disagreed...well you can fill in the rest.


John Edwards: Pre-announcement Announcement

Received this YouTube message from the John Edwards Campaign last night.

It's more or less a message for the campaign troops*** prior to his official announcement today.

For those who didn't receive it:



Here's his website: http://johnedwards.com

***NOTE: Not outing myself as an Edwards supporter. While I did always like his "Two Americas" theme, it's far too early for me to settle on a candidate . . . but I'm not ruling him out.

December 27, 2006

On the Flip Side TONIGHT

Hey, everyone!

I'll be on John McIntire's show tonight at 9:00PM

 

Neal Boortz - On the Record

Now that the news (that KDKA is replacing John McIntire with Neal Boortz) has sunk in a little, I thought it might be a good idea to look at Boortz' record. If, as they say, the past is prologue then maybe we can learn a thing or two about KDKA's new evening chatter from what he's said in the past.

No better place to start than July 23, 2004. As Media Matters has noted, Neal Boortz said on air that...well I'll let the man speak for himself. I don't want to be accused of putting words into his mouth. On that day he said:
Frankly I'm having a difficult time trying to figure out who is a greater threat to this country and I -- I don't -- I don't ask this question or make this statement for the purpose of saying something outlandish that you will repeat at lunch or dinner today. It's not why I'm doing this. But there's two different groups of people out there that present a threat to this country. Well there's many different groups. But I'm just singling out two different groups of people right now that present a threat to this country, and frankly I just cannot tell you which one presents the greater threat. One group of people: Osama bin Laden and his Islamic terrorists. The Islamic jihadists. The other group of people: those of you who would vote for John Kerry. And both groups present a threat to our safety and a threat to our future. A threat to our freedoms and a threat to our economic liberty.

And again I'm not saying this for effect. I mean this. I can not make up my mind which group is most dangerous. I can't. Because those of you, out there, who would vote for John Kerry for president of the United States, I have -- I deeply, deeply, feel that you present a danger to this country. To our freedoms. To our very safety. And to our future. Just as the Islamic terrorists do. And I hope you know what in the hell you're doing, but frankly I doubt it very, very seriously. [emphasis added]
That got me to wondering. We here in Pittsburgh live in a blue state - and certainly in a blue county. According to USAToday, Kerry carried Allegheny County by 363,674 to 268,387 (that's about 95,000 more votes for Kerry).

And Neal Boortz is on record not knowing who's more of a threat to "our" freedoms: al qaeda or the 363+ thousand voters in Allegheny County who voted for John Kerry.

Let that soak in for a bit.

December 26, 2006

Just because I can . . .

I had meant to post this yesterday but venturing outside my house for a couple of hours in my first non-doctor appointment 'trip' since I got out of the hospital left me completely exhausted.

Here's my niece Rachel with Mr. & Mrs. Claus courtesy of their local fire department in Scott Township:


And, though David has already done so, I also wanted to wish you all a really Happy Holiday Season.

RIP, Godfather of Soul


James Brown
May 3, 1928 – December 25, 2006

John Dean on Impeachment

Here at Findlaw. First off, let's start with what Dean doesn't think can happen:
There Is No Chance Either Bush or Cheney Will Be Removed From Office

The Republican Congress shamed itself when it impeached and tried President William Jefferson Clinton. It was a repeat of what an earlier Republican Congress had done to President Andrew Johnson, following the Civil War. Both proceedings were politics at their ugliest.

Democrats, when they undertook to impeach Richard Nixon, moved very slowly, building bipartisan support for the undertaking. Nixon, of course, resigned, when it became apparent that the House had the votes to impeach and the Senate had the votes to convict, with his removal supported by Democrats and Republicans, and conservatives and liberals alike.

Getting the necessary two-thirds supermajority in support of impeachment in today's Senate, which is virtually evenly-divided politically, is simply not possible. With forty-nine senators of the 110th Congress members in good standing with the Republican Party, and most of them rock-ribbed conservatives, even if the House produced evidence of Cheney personally water-boarding "Gitmo" detainees in the basement of his home at the Naval Observatory, with Bush looking on approvingly, there are more than thirty-three GOP Senators who still would not vote to convict. (Senate Republicans who have no problem with torture, or with removing the right to habeas corpus, and who refused to exercise any oversight whatsoever of Bush or Cheney, are hardly going to remove these men for actions in which they too are complicit.)
Personally I'd say, fine - let them go on record voting in favor of the Administration's high crimes and misdemeanors - even if the attempt fails. But hey that's just me.

Dean, however, has other targets.
The Constitution's Impeachment Clause applies to all "civil officers of the United States" - not to mention the president, vice president and federal judges. It is not clear who, precisely, is among those considered "civil officers," but the group certainly includes a president's cabinet and sub-cabinet, as well as the senior department officials and the White House staff (those who are issued commissions by the president and serve the President and Vice President).

Quite obviously, Bush and Cheney have not acted alone in committing "high crimes and misdemeanors." Take a hypothetical (and there are many): Strong arguments have been made that many members of the Bush Administration - not merely Bush and Cheney -- have engaged in war crimes. If war crimes are not "high crimes and misdemeanors," it is difficult to imagine what might be. Jordan Paust, a well-know expert on the laws of war and a professor at University of Houston Law Center, has written a number of scholarly essays that mince few words about the war crimes of Bush's subordinates. For example, many of their names are on the "torture memos."
Ok. There's another benefit of impeaching "civil officers":
Many of these men (and a few women) are young enough that it is very likely that they will return to other posts in future Republican Administrations, and based on their experience in the Bush/Cheney Administration, they can be expected to make the offensive conduct of this presidency the baseline for the next president they serve. Impeachment, however, would prevent that from happening.

It will be recalled that Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution states: "Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States." (Emphasis added.) After any civil officer has been impeached, under the rules of the Senate, it requires only a simple majority vote to add the disqualification from holding future office.
Makes complete sense. For the sake of the system itself, something needs to be done.

Dean ends with:
While this is all possible in theory, it will only happen in practice if the Democrats have recovered from what CNN's Candy Crowley called their "wuss" phase, meaning, of course, their lack of backbone. The Republican Congress let Bush, Cheney & Company literally get away with murder and torture. We must all hope that the Democrats have recovered from their spinal problems, and that they will bring the invisible Congress back into play as what it is, and ought to act like: a constitutional co-equal. There would be no better way to do it than to commence impeachment proceedings against any on a potentially very long list of civil officers of the Bush Administration who should be removed from government, and disqualified from future opportunities to misuse government powers.
I could not agree more.

I'll say it again - IMPEACH

Merry Christmas - The Day After

From the AP:
At least 36 Iraqis died Tuesday in bombings, officials said, including a coordinated strike that killed 25 in western Baghdad. Separately, the deaths of six U.S. soldiers pushed the American toll beyond the number of victims in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.[emphasis added]
And
The U.S. military on Tuesday announced the deaths of six more American soldiers, pushing the U.S. military death toll since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003 to at least 2,978 - five more than the number killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The milestone came with the deaths of the three soldiers Monday and three more Tuesday in roadside bomb attacks near Baghdad, the military said.
While it was inevitable that the number of American personnel dead in Bush's war would overtake the slaughter of 9/11, the fact that it happened the day after Christmas only adds to my suspicion that God (if He exists) has a keen and bitter sense of the absurd.

There's no need to quote Bob Crachit's son here, is there?

Merry Christmas, Dubya.

December 25, 2006

MERRY CHRISTMAS

I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone (even the trolls) a very Merry Christmas. 

December 21, 2006

McIntire Leaving KDKA

Yea - I'm not kidding. This morning he posted this on his blog:
Those of you who enjoy my FLIP SIDE nighttime radio program have one more week to enjoy it. I will stop doing the FLIP SIDE as of December 29th. A syndicated host, Neil Boortz will replace me.

KDKA has been an absolutely outstanding place to work. The best thing that General Manager Mike Young, Vice President of Programming Keith Clark, and the recently department P.D. Steve Hansen did was let me do my thing. They left me alone. God bless broadcasters who let you do what you do.
Looks like things aren't as bad as they might seem. A paragraph later, he writes:
I will continue to blog so stay tuned. And as the news release reveals, the fine folks at CBS may have another opportunity for me in Pittsburgh. We're talking about it. It is a potential opportunity that excites me a great deal, and could be one whole helluva lot of fun.

But even if it occurs, I'll be off the air for a time. You may see me at several of the local Starbucks where I tend to live during these periods.
Let's all hope.

City Paper Chimes in on Mayor Luke!

Check it aht.
Remember when the city was desperate for revenue a few years ago, and there was all that talk about selling "naming rights" to public assets, like parks and bus shelters?

Looks like Mayor Luke Ravenstahl beat us to it.

In the past week, Pittsburgh households started getting big postcards about garbage collection. There, beside the injunction to "Redd Up Pittsburgh," was a photo of Luke Ravenstahl, smiling like someone who didn't have to help sort the recyclables. Days later, KDKA-TV aired a report which noted that the city's 3-1-1 help line identifies itself as "Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's response line."

No surprise there. The service is identified the same way on the city's Web site (www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us), which might as well be Luke's MySpace page. The Web page features a slide show of 10 photos of Ravenstahl -- Ravenstahl posing with kids, Ravenstahl posing with a crossing guard, Ravenstahl doing a grip-and-grin with police. The photo featured at the page's center almost always depicts the mayor as well.
Nothing unusual there from the formerly long-haired Chris Potter. But with his annoying gift of ferretting out more information than we simple bloggers can get our hands on, he adds:
Ravenstahl didn't invent such practices, of course. The Web site's PR value was already being amped up during the late Bob O'Connor's brief tenure. And attaching your name to a clean-up campaign has long been one of the advantages of incumbency. Back in the 1970s, Pete Flaherty urged us to pick up trash "For Pete's Sake." Sophie Masloff emblazoned trash cans with the words "Sophie's Choice," apparently seeing some kind of connection between litter and the Holocaust. Even the fastidious Tom Murphy did it ... although to satisfy his ethical qualms, apparently, he came up with a slogan so boring no one remembers it.
In his last few paragraphs, Potter outlines the big pile of crap that Mayor Luke made for himself to step in:
That mess involves Dennis Regan, an O'Connor appointee and confidante whom Ravenstahl inherited -- and later tried to put in charge of public safety.

Regan's promotion was thwarted when police Commander Catherine McNeilly accused him of intervening in disciplinary matters. Initially, Ravenstahl neatly swept the matter under the rug: An investigation supposedly found no wrongdoing, but Regan resigned anyway.

But when McNeilly was demoted a few weeks later, the other shoe dropped -- into a pile of dog crap, and with Ravenstahl's foot still in it.
See?

Go read Potter.

December 20, 2006

PITG/North Shore Wins Big

Yep, everyone was wrong. "The fix" apparently wasn't in -- why did anyone think Ol' Murphy would be wrong about everything else and right on this in the first place?

The State Gaming Control Board chose Detroit's Don Barden's PITG Gaming Majestic Star to build a casino on Pittsburgh's North Shore.

Frankly, I didn't care where it went as long as it wasn't located on the South Side as that's where I live.

The choice of the North Shore certainly should please the late-to-the-table protesters in the Hill District who did not want a casino in their back yard. Additionally, Barden has promised $350,000,000 to the Hill District for economic redevelopment and has also pledged to be mindful of racial diversity in hiring (Barden is African American).

The choice will not please Penguins fans who wanted the Isle of Capri's promised new hockey stadium (which also made whoever ends up owning the Penguins stay in the city for the next 20 years).

Barden has signed on to endorsing Plan B, however. That means a promise of $7.5 million a year towards a new stadium (plus 3.5 from the Pens and 1.5 from the city, I think?).

And the promised tax relief to everyone else?

Shit, Skippy. Who can keep track of little details like that with all the other scheming and intrigue and special interests going on?

Gingrich v Rove (Round 1)

Via Insight Magazine.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has decided to break with President Bush.

Sources close to Mr. Gingrich said that, after having kept silent for more than a year, he has become openly critical of the administration, portraying the president as a weak man akin to Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. The former House speaker has warned conservatives not to expect anything from the White House over the remaining two years and instead focus on building a base for leadership for 2008.
Did I read that right? Weak like Jimmy Carter? Newt Gingrich says that Dubya is a "weak man" like Jimmy Carter.

Oh my god. How will all the wingnuts respond? How can they? The man who brought about the "Contract with America" and the Republican take-over of the House in 1994 says that Bush is weak like Carter. I think I hear some wingnut heads exploding right now. Oh, the humanity!

But Newt isn't done. No Sirree.
The sources said Mr. Gingrich, who refuses to commit to a presidential bid in 2008, blames White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove for Mr. Bush's mistakes, including the loss of Congress in 2006. They said Mr. Gingrich's criticism of the top Bush political adviser has been considered by the president and this could lead to Mr. Rove's early departure.

On Nov. 30, Mr. Gingrich, hosted by dozens of powerful conservatives, spoke at a private fund raiser for the Virginia Conservative Action PAC. Mr. Gingrich, lamenting the waste of the Republican Party's huge ad campaign during the 2006 election, called on Mr. Rove to either change his losing strategy or quit.

"2004 was pathetic, and 2006 was worse," Mr. Gingrich said, referring to the Rove-directed GOP campaigns.
So Bush is weak and the huge 2006 election losses are Rove's fault, thus spake Newt.

But there's one more tidbit:
Mr. Gingrich gave several reasons for the GOP’s loss of Congress in 2006. He cited the U.S. failure to stabilize Iraq, the botched relief effort after Hurricane Katrina and the lack of an agenda that could have inspired Americans.
But I thought the Republican Talking Point about New Orleans was that it was all Mayor (and Democrat) Ray Nagin's and Governor (and Democrat) Kathleen Blanco's fault. Is Newt Gingrich actually saying that FEMA botched the relief effort?

Yep.

Not only that, but he said that FEMA made things worse:
"If there was no FEMA, New Orleans would have recovered faster," Mr. Gingrich said.
This isn't the first time Newt's spoken to us via Insight Magazine. In August, Newt said that the GOP has been an "abysmal failure" for 12 years.

My god it's fun to trash the Republicans with one of their own.
  • GOP = lacks an inspiring agenda, an abysmal failure for 12 years
  • FEMA=Made things worse in New Orleans
  • Dubya=Weak
  • Rove=It's all his fault
Who says this isn't fun?

December 19, 2006

Rick Santorum - via the Trib

Salena Zito has a pair of articles in today's Tribune Review on our favorite soon-to-be former Senator, Rick Santorum (God, I LOVED typing that!). One is an interview and the other a summary of the interview.

In the interview Rick does have some interesting things to say - and if you peer between the lines a LOT of interesting things to say. Case in point:
Trib: Is there any scenario in which you would consider running for president in 2008?

Santorum: For the year 2008 the answer is, I am not going to be running.
Take a close look. Now closer. He only ruled out running in 2008. Pretty much means we'll see a Rick Santorum campaign someplace in maybe about three years or so, doesn't it?

Some of the questions bordered on softball. Take a look at the first one:
Trib: Did you ever envision when you first ran for Congress, and stood on the corners of Cochran and Washington Roads in Mount Lebanon with your homemade signs, that your career would lead you to a final-act speech on the growing threat of Islamic fascism?
It really only makes sense if one agrees that there is a "growing threat of Islamic fascism." (That, of course, is a separate issue.) The interviewer and interviewee have to already agree on the concept before the question can be answered. Kind of frames the rest of the interview, don't it?.

Though Zito does get in something challenging:
Trib: Any plans to move back to Pennsylvania? Or will your future keep you close to the Washington Beltway?

Santorum: I am in the process of figuring that all out. I will make some decision here in the next few weeks.
Wait a sec. The question implies that Rick doesn't live in Pennsylvania. What's up with that? What happened to all that stuff during the campaign about his "legal residence" being in Penn Hills? And could there be a more tepid response?

Here's Rick on the media:
Trib: The media -- how do you think they have played a role in the public's perception of the threat of Islamic fascism, the effects of the war in Iraq?

Santorum: I gave a speech at the Valley Forge Military Academy a little over a year ago, and I talked about the role of the media -- I was very critical of them.

They felt it was their obligation to go out every day and report as they do. And they report death- as I say, "one side of the story." I understand why they do it, and I am not saying that they don't have to do it.

But understand, by doing so, all you do is accomplish exactly what the terrorists want you to do, which is to weary the American public of this war -- and eventually cause us to stop fighting it. That is the end result of what we are doing.

I have always said that if World War II was covered like this war, I really, very seriously doubt that we would have ever won that war. Certainly, we might have been willing, when the losses got so high, to negotiate a compromise or negotiate some sort of surrender. The death that went on -- I always remind people that we lost more people in a couple of hours on D-Day that we have in the entire war (in Iraq).

The amount of death and destruction that occurred in the previous wars, under the current media coverage, would not have tolerated by the American public.

The bottom line is, the media -- and I am not saying that they are intending to do this -- but simply by what they are doing, without question, it is aiding the terrorists and their objective.

And that may just simply be the function of a free press in a democratic society. ... I would argue that covering the bad things that are going on Iraq, and not covering the greater complexities that I have talked about in my speeches and highlighting the threat, is a disservice to the American public. And, I think, will have far-reaching consequences.
Let's take it apart section by section:
I gave a speech at the Valley Forge Military Academy a little over a year ago, and I talked about the role of the media -- I was very critical of them.

They felt it was their obligation to go out every day and report as they do. And they report death- as I say, "one side of the story." I understand why they do it, and I am not saying that they don't have to do it.

But understand, by doing so, all you do is accomplish exactly what the terrorists want you to do, which is to weary the American public of this war -- and eventually cause us to stop fighting it. That is the end result of what we are doing.
So by reporting the deaths in Iraq, the media is helping the terrorists.
I have always said that if World War II was covered like this war, I really, very seriously doubt that we would have ever won that war. Certainly, we might have been willing, when the losses got so high, to negotiate a compromise or negotiate some sort of surrender. The death that went on -- I always remind people that we lost more people in a couple of hours on D-Day that we have in the entire war (in Iraq).
That last part might not be accurate. From the D-Day Museum website:
How many Allied and German casualties were there on D-Day, and in the Battle of Normandy?

“Casualties” refers to all losses suffered by the armed forces: killed, wounded, missing in action (meaning that their bodies were not found) and prisoners of war. There is no "official" casualty figure for D-Day. Under the circumstances, accurate record keeping was very difficult. For example, some troops who were listed as missing may actually have landed in the wrong place, and have rejoined their parent unit only later.

In April and May 1944, the Allied air forces lost nearly 12,000 men and over 2,000 aircraft in operations which paved the way for D-Day.

Total Allied casualties on D-Day are estimated at 10,000, including 2500 dead. British casualties on D-Day have been estimated at approximately 2700. The Canadians lost 946 casualties. The US forces lost 6603 men. Note that the casualty figures for smaller units do not always add up to equal these overall figures exactly, however (this simply reflects the problems of obtaining accurate casualty statistics). [Italics added]
And US casualties so far in Iraq? As of today (1219/06): 2950 dead and 46,880 "non mortal casualties." To be sure, the numbers will go up.

But given that the accuracy of all the D-Day numbers is hazy, I won't hold Rick to this. But let's assume for the sake of the argument that Rick is correct. That more US Servicemen died in a "couple of hours" on D-Day than were killed in the 4 years of Bush's war. So what? More people die in car accidents on the nation's roads. Does that make an illegal war legal? Does that suddenly make what was a meaningless death a meaningful one?
The amount of death and destruction that occurred in the previous wars, under the current media coverage, would not have tolerated by the American public.

The bottom line is, the media -- and I am not saying that they are intending to do this -- but simply by what they are doing, without question, it is aiding the terrorists and their objective.

And that may just simply be the function of a free press in a democratic society. ... I would argue that covering the bad things that are going on Iraq, and not covering the greater complexities that I have talked about in my speeches and highlighting the threat, is a disservice to the American public. And, I think, will have far-reaching consequences.
So to sum up. The media, though Rick is careful to say that he doesn't think it's intentional, is aiding the terrorists simply by reporting what they see. If only they'd parrot more of the nonsense that the administration (and Rick Santorum) has been saying over the last few years, the war would be over and we would have won it. Why can't the media just show us nice pictures of bunnies and sunsets? That way, the serious, important people can finish the job with no pesky interference from the public.

Yea, that's it. The media's fault and the public's fault for not buying that tripe.

December 18, 2006

One Billboard Too Many . . .

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We've all seen the stories about Mayor Luke plastering his face on everything that's nailed down and much that isn't. Bob Mayo did his story on the "Ravenstahlizaton" of our fair city back in November on WTAE and Paul Martino did a follow-up on KDKA last week (though I will take credit for bringing this up all the way back in October). It's also been a topic on John McIntire's The Flip Side on KDKA Radio.

Local blogs such as The Burgh Report, The People's Republic of Pittsburgh, MacYapper, and The Other Political Junkie on this very blog have all posted on the topic. And, Bob Mayo mentions it again on his brand new blog The Busman's Holiday.

While opinions on this subject have ranged from those who think it's a clear misuse of taxpayer money to "everybody does it," Mayor Ravenstahl has steadfastly claimed that none of it is "campaign motivated."

So why do I bring this up again?

Whatever you believe Mayor Luke's motives may be, we do believe he'd agree with us, that this billboard may have been one too many:


Yep, that is a pile of trash under Lukey's smiling visage on "redding up" Pittsburgh.

Here's a close up:


Not exactly the greatest campaign image whatever his intentions were but, just maybe, a nice visual metaphor for his administration.

(H/T to my sister, Gina, who spotted the billboard and took the photograph -- she's still laughing.)

Colin Powell on Civil War and Bush's "Surge"

Sadly, we can add Colin Powell's name to the list of those who think Iraq is in a civil war. And we can also add his name to the list of those who think we're losing there.

Why does Colin Powell want our troops to loose? Why is he undermining our brave President's valiant efforts to keep us safe from the terrorists? WHY DOES COLIN POWELL HATE AMERICA?
Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell said yesterday that the United States is losing what he described as a "civil war" in Iraq and that he is not persuaded that an increase in U.S. troops there would reverse the situation. Instead, he called for a new strategy that would relinquish responsibility for Iraqi security to the government in Baghdad sooner rather than later, with a U.S. drawdown to begin by the middle of next year.
Oh my god! That's Cut and Run! Cut and Run! Does Colin Powell really think he knows military matters better than the people in the administration who never served in combat? The arrogance, I tell you. The arrogance of these traitorous, surrender-obsessed, cut and run liberals. They are exactly what's wrong with America.

Colin Powell obviously wants the 911 terrorists to win. Look, he even disagrees with Our President's latest plan for victory: the surge.
The summer's surge of U.S. troops to try to stabilize Baghdad failed, he said, and any new attempt is unlikely to succeed. "If somebody proposes that additional troops be sent, if I was still chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my first question . . . is what mission is it these troops are supposed to accomplish? . . . Is it something that is really accomplishable? . . . Do we have enough troops to accomplish it?"
Look at the first sentence there. He said that American troops failed. Why doesn't Powell support the troops? Calling them failures isn't a solution. In fact, it's offensive.

But anyway, what's with all the questions? We elected George Bush to make decisions for us. Constantly challenging Bush with questions like "Ooo what's the mission?" and "Ooo can we accomplish it?" will only distract our leader from his Constitutionally mandated job of doing whatever it takes to protect us - and it might give the terrorists just enough space to attack us again.

Questions are a burden to our dear leader. Powell further digs himself in:
Before any decision to increase troops, he said, "I'd want to have a clear understanding of what it is they're going for, how long they're going for. And let's be clear about something else. . . . There really are no additional troops. All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there, there longer and escalating or accelerating the arrival of other troops."

He added: "That's how you surge. And that surge cannot be sustained."

The "active Army is about broken," Powell said. Even beyond Iraq, the Army and Marines have to "grow in size, in my military judgment," he said, adding that Congress must provide significant additional funding to sustain them.
And remember, whenever you hear a liberal say "addition funding" that means they're gonna raise our taxes.

To sum up: Colin Powell wants to cut and run. He thinks the military has failed in Iraq (in fact he says it's broken). He's undermining the President's authority to protect us from another terrorist attack.

And he wants to raise your taxes.

The preceeding message brought to you by the President's council on skewing the news in favor of George W. Bush, Sean Hannity President.

December 17, 2006

A Tim Murphy Update

Remember Congressman Tim Murphy? He made it on to 2PJ here and here.

Well, looks like the Feds are investigating him. Here's Andy Sheehan at KDKA from the 14th of December:
A federal investigation is underway after allegations surfaced against US Rep. Tim Murphy.

Sources tell KDKA federal agents have begun interviewing former Murphy staffers on whether they did political work for the congressman on government time.

Murphy denies the allegations.
And the P-G a few days later:
Authorities are investigating whether Rep. Tim Murphy's legislative staff members performed campaign work while on government time, which would violate federal law, according to a broadcast report.

Federal authorities have started interviewing Mr. Murphy's former staff members, according to KDKA-TV, which cited anonymous sources.
The story has again made it all the way to talkingpointsmemo.com (one of the major blogs around):
You may recall some of the dandy investigative reporting on Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) turned in by Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV during the midterm election campaign. At issue was whether Murphy was illegally using his congressional staff for campaign purposes. Now it looks like the feds are investigating. KDKA has the latest.
If it's at talkingpointsmemo, then lefties all over the country are reading about the investigation.

This ain't a local story anymore.

There's even a blurb about all this at the wikipedia. Please note that there are pdf files posted of some leaked documents - go take a look. One of the posted documents describes what can only be described as creepy oppostition research, though as far as I can tell this isn't part of the federal investigation. The "research" was on a number of constituents who've written critical letters to the P-G. Here's Melissa Meinzer at the City-Paper:
Opposition research is part of almost every political campaign. But the campaign staff of U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) may have spent part of the 2006 election season doing research on a less likely target: people who wrote letters to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"The following is the information I was able to retrieve on the individuals who wrote negative letters to the editor about you," reads the beginning of a three-page memo dated June 23, 2006. The memo, addressed to "TFM," was apparently written by Murphy campaign manager Justin Lokay.

The memo includes copies of two letters to the Post-Gazette from earlier that month. The first, by Brian Rampolla, criticizes Murphy's claims that a visit to Iraq had shown him the war was going well and getting better by the day. The second, by Christine Gallo, echoes Rampolla's statements.
But wait. According to Meizner, this isn't just stuff found via google:
In addition to Rampolla's and Gallo's addresses and phone numbers, the documents detail Rampolla's voting record and religion, his stances on gun control and abortion, and his place of business -- as well as his supposed support for Rick Santorum's Democratic opponent in the 2000 U.S. Senate race. Gallo's voting record and place of business are also noted in the document.
How did they get that information, why did they think they need it, and what on Earth gave them the idea that they could go get it? And remember, all this was done for a Member of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress.

- under investigation by the Feds.

December 16, 2006

Luke says it - so that makes it so

Paul Martino posted an interesting story last night.
At first glance, when you see a smiling Luke Ravenstahl on a billboard on Route 28, you might think it’s a campaign ad.

It’s not.
Turns out it's a not a promotion for Mayor Luke's upcoming mayoral campaign, but a promotion for that "Redd up" thing. Billboard space donated by Lamarr Advertising. Anyone know if Lamarr Advertising does any business with the city? And if so, how much?

Take a look at "Redd up" campaign's web presense. Redduppittsburgh.com redirects to this city site. Where, of course, the banner across the top of the screen reads:
Bob O'Connor's
Let's
REDD UP
Pittsburgh
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl
Then there's the mailing about the city's "311 line." Martino explains:
The city had a help line for several years, but two years ago they shut it down because of a budget crisis. The late Mayor O’Connor began to resurrect it, and Mayor Ravenstahl finished the project.
So what's the deal with it? Though I haven't received one, there's a mass mailing promoting the city's help line. Cost to the taxpayers? According to Martino, nearly $30,000. It includes a nice picture of Mayor Luke.

Here's where the fun begins. Martino went that extra step and ACTUALLY CALLED the 311 line.
When you call, you hear: “Thank you for calling Mayor Ravenstahl’s response line 3-1-1.” [emphasis added]
Do other city's answer their respective lines the same way?

How about Chicago? Nope.
“3-1-1 At Your Service.”
Baltimore? Same thing - nope.
“City Call 3-1-1.”
Of the 15 cities check only Pittsburgh's line plugs the mayor by name.

Couldn't be that we're approaching a campaign for mayor, could it?

Then there's the oddly campaign-resembling setting of the City website. Martino found "dozens" of pictures of the mayor at the city website. The OPJ has already touched on this here.

But of course it's not an abuse of the taxpayers nor is it campaign related self-promotion. How do we know this?

Simple. Mayor Luke says so. From Martino's piece:
But Ravenstahl denies [the answer on the city's help line is] self promotion.

“That’s not an advertisement for Luke Ravenstahl as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Heehee - Mayor Luke refers to himself in the third person. Dayvoe doesn't like that. Dayvoe thinks it's pretentious and boorish. But Dayvoe digresses.
“I disagree wholeheartedly that this in anyway is campaign motivated. That this is in anyway an abuse of taxpayers’ dollars, [be]cause in my opinion it’s not,” Ravenstahl said.
So that, I guess, settles that.

December 14, 2006

One Big Fat Mess

So Bush is considering a plan to "double down" in Iraq "with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government."

Meanwhile, "At least two-thirds of Army units in the United States today are rated as not ready to deploy -- lacking in manpower, training and, most critically, equipment -- according to senior U.S. officials and the Iraq Study Group report. The two ground services estimate that they will need $18 billion a year to repair, replace and upgrade destroyed and worn-out equipment," and "'We are concerned about gross readiness . . . and ending equipment and personnel shortfalls,' said a senior Marine Corps official. The official added that Marine readiness has dropped and that the Corps is unable to fulfill many planned missions for the fight against terrorism."

On top of that a defense specialist, "who requested anonymity because the discussions were private" is saying that it will be impossible to follow the recommendation of the Iraq Study Group because there's no way that the Iraqis will be ready: "The message to Bush, the defense specialist said, is that the U.S. cannot withdraw a substantial number of combat troops by early 2008, as suggested in the Iraq Study Group report, because the Iraqis will not be ready to assume control of their country. Bush is delaying making public his new Iraq policy plan in part to allow officials to work out the funding, he said."

Add to that the fact that "Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats," and that "Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, has abruptly resigned after 15 months on the job, an embassy official said Tuesday."

It becomes hardly surprising that Bush has decided to delay his speech on his big new strategy for Iraq until after the holidays.

If he wasn't personally responsible for tens of thousands of death resulting from his Iraq misadventure, you'd almost have to feel sorry for the guy.

I never was too good at math

I failed to put two and two together yesterday.

I was walking home last night when I realised I missed something in the P-G's reporting. Take a look.

Yesterday, they published this article. It was a report of a meeting that took place on Tuesday between the Mayor and the P-G editorial board. As part of the reporting there's a number mp3 files from the meeting. On one of them, the mayor answers a question about Catherine McNeilly. He says, in short, that she was disciplined for releasing private information.

This was on Tuesday.

Remember it was on Wednesday that the P-G published this editorial. It ended with this:
Even by the lame ethics of Grant Street, the punishment of Catherine McNeilly is a disgraceful capitulation to political expediency. It's a bad smell that the mayor will have to answer for as he campaigns for election next year.
So I'm guessing that Mayor Ravenstahl, uh, failed to convince the P-G editorial board.

Let's hope this means that the honeymoon is over.

December 13, 2006

"A Rotten Smell on Grant Street"

That's how the P-G editorial board describes what's left over from the Dennis Regan/Catherine McNeilly debacle.

We blogged on it here.

The editorial:
Former Pittsburgh Operations Director Dennis Regan has left city government, but the episode that sent the powerful political appointee packing left a rotten smell on Grant Street.

Mr. Regan, the former aide to Mayor Bob O'Connor and his successor Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, quit Dec. 1 after a city probe found no evidence that he interfered in a disciplinary matter involving detective Francis Rende, brother of Mr. Regan's housemate.

Although Mr. Regan had a dignified exit via resignation and not firing, he had become too much of a political liability for even Grant Street cronyism to redeem with a straight face.

His drama began as many municipal dramas do: He was named to a position (head of intergovernmental affairs) for which he had little qualification by a grateful friend and new mayor -- Mr. O'Connor. In that job, while the mayor was in the hospital battling cancer, Mr. Regan helped to oust rival administration officials: the mayor's chief of staff, the city solicitor and the city finance director.

After Mr. O'Connor's death, Mayor Ravenstahl named Mr. Regan as his director of operations, then nominated him for public safety director despite a nonexistent resume for that post.

In October, however, while Mr. Regan was under consideration by council for the public safety job, police Cmdr. Catherine McNeilly sent an e-mail to City Council members questioning Mr. Regan's fitness for the post and strongly implying that he quashed the disciplining of Detective Rende, one of her subordinates. The mayor suspended both Mr. Regan and Cmdr. McNeilly with pay and ordered a probe of their actions.

Despite the merits of Ms. McNeilly's complaint against Mr. Regan, her decision to divulge details of Mr. Rende's personnel file was the trigger for her own suspension during what turned out to be a 50-day probe.

It took courage to do what Ms. McNeilly did. We even called her a whistle-blower for daring to come forward against a man who was arguably the city's most powerful unelected official. How far would she have gotten in her complaint against Mr. Regan without providing hard evidence? Would the Law Department have investigated him without details on his role in the police discipline case?

In the end, the mayor said there was no conclusive evidence Mr. Regan did anything wrong. But, incredibly, he resigned anyway. Last Thursday, as a result of the Law Department's investigation, Cmdr. McNeilly was demoted to lieutenant for violating Mr. Rende's expectation of privacy, and her salary was cut from $77,927 to $67,764. Yesterday, in an interview with this editorial board, Mayor Ravenstahl said while he believed the demotion was necessary, Ms. McNeilly is now in "good standing" with the police department.

We're relieved she wasn't fired outright, but we're concerned about the chilling effect her demotion may have on others eager to speak out against wrongdoing in city government.

Even by the lame ethics of Grant Street, the punishment of Catherine McNeilly is a disgraceful capitulation to political expediency. It's a bad smell that the mayor will have to answer for as he campaigns for election next year.
Huh - there's that "smell" metaphor again.

Now isn't this a surprise!

Take a look at who's paying for the legal challenge to Allegheny County's smoking ban: A tobaccco company.
Officials at tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds said yesterday the company is footing the bill for two Downtown restaurant owners to fight Allegheny County's smoking ban, set to take effect Jan. 2.
Should we be surprised?

On local talk radio, the ban is challenged on "freedom" issues (for instance, "What right does the County have to dictate to a bar/restaurant owner how to run his/her business??").

How different the picture looks when we learn that R.J. Reynolds is paying the tab.

Santorum News

Remember this?

Way back in February, in discussing Rick Santorum's mortgage deal (it's reportedly an "interest-only" mortgage at 5%), I wrote:
I'm not a banker, but doesn't this mean that Rick only has to pay 5% of $500,000 per year (or about $25K) for each year between 2002 and 2007? Then all he has to do is to find a way to pay back the half mil in November 2007, when he's either 10 months out of the Senate making beaucoup bucks on the Conservative speech-making circuit or still in the Senate, still on the Senate Finance Committee where refinancing the loan would be easy as pie.
Well, kids. We can all stop worrying about how Rick Santorum's gonna come up with the half mil 11 months from now. From Brett Lieberman:
A month after suffering the largest defeat by a Senate incumbent in a quarter-century, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum ponders a future as a cable TV talking head and earning big bucks on the lecture circuit.
Largest defeat. Hahahaha! Sorry I just had to get this maniacal laugh in. A few paragraphs later Lieberman writes:
Santorum is expected to go on the lecture circuit, where he likely would earn $20,000 to $50,000 a speech, according to several estimates, addressing corporations and interest groups.
Wow. So to make a half mil, Rick, speaking at $20K a pop would have to give 25 speeches. At $50K, it's only 10.

So between 10 and 25 speeches in 11 months and Rick's palatial estate in Virginia is paid for. Even if Rick's former employer takes half in taxes, he'd only have to give between 20 and 50 speeches in those same eleven months. And even if we take the lowest numbers, all Rick has to do is to give, on average, one speech every week for the next 11 months and he pays off his mortgage.

It's good to know, doncha think?

December 12, 2006

Lower and Lower Poll Numbers

Poor George W. Bush. Even members if his own party are abandoning him. Fewer and fewer Americans believe that his war is going well or that it's even a good idea.

From the most recent CBS poll:
The Iraq Study Group described the situation in Iraq as “grave and deteriorating,” and Americans agree. 71% – the largest percentage ever - believe the war is going badly. 39% believe the war is going very badly – also the highest number ever. A majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree that the war is going badly.
Worse yet:
The public’s overwhelming negativity about the war in Iraq extends to President’s handling of it -- which, at a mere 21%, is the lowest it has ever been. Three quarters disapprove.
And:
Most of that drop has occurred among the President’s base – Republicans and conservatives. Last month, 70% of Republicans approved of how the President was handling the war; now, just 47% do. Few Democrats and Independents approve. Conservative support for President Bush’s handling of Iraq has also fallen, from 60% in November to 34% now.
Oopsie. When your own party is jumping ship, you know you've screwed the pooch.
The President’s overall job approval rating has fallen slightly. 31% of Americans approve of the job he is doing overall, matching the President’s previous low of last May. 34% approved last month, the same percentage as before the election.
So his support has dropped from the election - if ever so slightly.

Read the entire poll data here.

December 11, 2006

This evening's Peduto Event

As posted here, it took place at the Cafe Phipps. It's a very nice place, by the way. Very clean and warm. My Earl Grey (hot) cost me a buck thirty-nine, though.

By the time the meeting began at about 7:30 it was standing room only at the Cafe Phipps. Too many people, not enough chairs. There were college kids and Vietnam vets. People sipping coffee and others (inexplicably) chomping down on ice cream.

Ice Cream? In DECEMBER? What are these crazy radicals thinking??

Anyway, they were all there to hear City Councilman Bill Peduto. Speaking from notes and dressed in the by now ubiquitous political uniform (blue suit, white shirt, blue tie) Peduto outlined the issues on which his campaign will be focussed; the city's financial troubles, transit, civil liberties and so on.

And he began by pointing out an odd historical occurance. One short year ago, during the mayoral race, he said he was the "fresh young voice" in the race. One short year later and he's suddenly the "elder statesman," the voice of experience and reason.

Weird, huh?

He was very careful to point out that while Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is a good guy, the people surrounding him are the same people who've been in place in City Hall since Pete Flaherty roamed the halls.

If anything, there was one idea running throughout Peduto's speech. It was a comparison between what a Peduto campaign and administration will look like and what a Ravenstahl campaign and administration will look like. Peduto said his will be a "people's campaign" focussing on plans to invigorate all segments of the city. While concentrating on economic development throughout the city, a Peduto administration will also focus on civil liberties and embrace tolerance and diversity.

Peduto sought, also, to reassure the crowd that no matter what they may have heard recently, the race has yet to begin. He likened it to a football game where the first quarter hasn't even started yet. Extending the metaphor, he said it was really the pregame show, where they're merely discussing the game to come.

He said that he has 10,000 e-mail address of people to contact, 8,000 snail mail address of supporters from his previous campaign. He's planning on hitting the ground running, fully staffed when he announces sometime in January.

Peduto ended by saying that when Mayor Ravenstahl announced his campaign, he effectively "napalmed" the field. He did that because he wants "a one-on-one" with Peduto. Almost immediately after the crowd-free announcement, both State Rep Dan Frankel and Allegheny County President Rich Fitzgerald took themselves out of the race.

He's looking to announce his candidacy in January sometime - with a crowd of a thousand Pittsburghers around him.

A good way to launch a "people's campaign."

Some Aural/Visual Caffeine

And now for something completely different . . .

As most of you start your work week -- and I start a new week of being sick -- I thought I'd provide those slow movers out there with a shot of adrenaline this morning.

This is perhaps my all time favorite Bollywood production number. It's the dance tune Jaan Pehechaan Ho from the 1966 movie Gumnaam. (You may also be familiar with it from the movie Ghost World.)

Events This Week

Bill Peduto Pre-campaign Event
When:
Monday, December 11th, 7:30 - 9:00 PM
Where: Cafe Phipps, Phipps Conservatory, One Schenley Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Pubic Workshop sponsored by Twin River Council of Government
Twin Rivers Council of Government is hosting a community meeting about Allegheny Places, the County's first comprehensive plan.
When: Tuesday, December 12th, 5:30 PM
Where: West Mifflin Borough Building, 3000 Lebanon Church Road, West Mifflin, PA 15122 (Bus Routes: 51E, 55M, 59A and 61C)
http://www.alleghenyplaces.com/main.asp

Sierra Club Free Screening of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"
(With national conference call with Al Gore via MoveOn.org)
When: Saturday, December 16th, 7:00 PM
Where: Sierra Club Office-Oakland, 3109 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh PA 15213
RSVP at: http://pol.moveon.org/event/events/event.html?event_id=29432

December 10, 2006

WOO-HOO! We're # 1!!!

Not only is the US number one in the world in terms of just total raw numbers, we're number one per capita.

At what does the Good Ol' US of A excel so spectacularly?

Imprisoning our own citizens:
A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people -- or one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail.
Did you catch that?

Let me repeat it:
. . . one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year.
The article goes on to say:
"We send more people to prison, for more different offenses, for longer periods of time than anybody else," he [Ryan King, a policy analyst at The Sentencing Project] said.

Drug offenders account for about 2 million of the 7 million in prison, on probation or parole, King said, adding that other countries often stress treatment instead of incarceration.
WTF?!

Can we say that this is not working?

Does this even sound like we're talking about a democracy?

Is it possible for a country to call itself a democracy with this percentage of citizens behind bars?

And if that weren't depressing enough, A Spork in the Drawer tells us why if you're in prison, you'd best be certain to get right with God -- as long as it's the right God of course (and that God is not Catholic, Jewish or Muslim for sure).

[sigh]

December 9, 2006

More on Marty Griffin

I don't know if you noticed this piece in the P-G yesterday. Lynn Cullen was all over it on WPTT.
During an emotional meeting yesterday, members of Pittsburgh Presbytery prayed about how they might handle property disputes if some of their congregations leave the denomination and heard a final letter written to them by a pastor who committed suicide after KDKA-TV ran promos for an expose on his sex life.
Here's more.
In it, Mr. Dugan, pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, apologized for the shame he believed he had brought on the presbytery. He said he had struggled with his sexuality all his adult life, hoping to fall in love with a woman, but concluding he was to devote his life only to his congregation.

He said he did so until four years ago, when he became close friends with a man who claimed to love him, and with whom he had occasional sexual encounters. That man cajoled him into leaving specific kinds of sexual fantasies on his answering machine, and then betrayed him by setting up a meeting at an adult bookstore, where KDKA-TV recorded him, Mr. Dugan wrote.
I want to take a look at how KDKA was describing in the piece. From Rob Owen on 11/6/06:
KDKA general manager Chris Pike said the station would have no comment beyond a statement released Friday night that expressed condolences to Dugan's family and friends and explained that KDKA had "conducted a monthlong investigation into reports of public and illegal sexual behavior by Pastor Dugan. The results of that investigation were scheduled to air [Thursday] evening. ... That evening the station received information from someone close to Pastor Dugan that indicated that he was considering doing harm to himself. As a result, the station made the decision not to air the story."[emphasis added]
Now take a look at what Dugan said.
That man cajoled him into leaving specific kinds of sexual fantasies on his answering machine, and then betrayed him by setting up a meeting at an adult bookstore...
There's obviously a disconnect here because there's a big gap between gay phone sex, meeting in adult bookstore and illegal sexual behavior.

Did Marty Griffin have anything to back up his charge of illegal behavior? As posted here before, Rob Owen didn't think so:
During the 11 p.m. news Thursday, Griffin said his investigation "uncovered illicit, possibly illegal, activity by a local minister, activities which, at the very least, violated the rules of his denomination."

It's the use of key words -- possibly illegal, at the very least -- that call into question whether the report was worth doing in the first place. If the best Griffin could dig up was a trip to an adult bookstore (not illegal) and violation of church rules, then there's not much in it to serve the public interest. It comes off looking like another "gotcha"-style story designed for no benefit except the TV station's ratings.
Does KDKA have any other defense? Becuase if they don't it looks an awful lot like they set up a lonely closeted gay pastor for a ratings bonanza.

I hope the news division and Marty Griffin are very happy with themselves.

December 8, 2006

The Aristocrats

From Digby:


But looking at that amazing picture of the Bush clan in the White house --- the former president, the current president, the Governor of one of the largest states --- all together in the White House says everything you need to know about what true conservatism is really all about.

We allowed them to impeach the duly elected president who beat the father, for trivial reasons. We allowed the father's appointees to settle a dubious election result in the son's favor. We have watched them as they created a presidency insulated from popular or congressional oversight in which they have gone so far as to set forth the idea that the president has no obligation to follow the law. They lowered taxes on the very rich to a level not seen in many decades and created an income disparity between the very, very rich and everyone else that is unprecedented in the modern era. They eliminated the single best means of ensuring that an aristocracy will not truly form --- the estate inheritance tax. The ten year campaign to repeal it was bankrolled by 18 of the richest families in America.

Who says Bush isn't a real conservative? Why he's the most purely conservative president in American history.

Read the rest here.

1 Political Junkie on KDKA Radio Tonight

David will be on Mcintire's Friday Night Free for All edition of The Flip Side tonight (9:00 PM) along with Sue Kerr of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.

WWW.KDKARADIO.COM OVER THE 'NET

1020 AM OVER THE AIR

The Norman Has Spoken (Tony, that is)

You go read.

Lesson #1: Don't Piss-Off City Hall

This story continued.

Ah, the Ravenstahl administration. Such a friendly place! A place where each employee knows that the Mayor is on his or her side. Well, some of the employees, at least. Certainly employees named "Dennis."

Let's bring you all up-top-date. Dennis Regan resigns even though an investigation finds "no conclusive evidence" of any wrong doing in regards to the complaints brought to City Council from Commander Catherine McNeilly. Here's how KDKA's Andy Sheehan described the situation surrounding Regan's resignation:
Regan has been on paid leave ever since critics claimed he improperly intervened on behalf of his live-in girlfriend's brother, a city police officer.
And
Commander McNeilly allegedly informed the mayor and city council that Regan had intervened to save the job of a detective.
Of course there's absolutely nothing wrong going on there! There's not even the appearance of impropriety there. Well, maybe a little. But Mayor Luke said he found no conclusive evidence of any wrong doing. We the taxpayers of the city won't get to see the details, though. You know how it is.

Of course, for her troubles, Catherine McNeilly was demoted:
Catherine McNeilly, a key figure in the controversy surrounding former city of Pittsburgh Operations Director Dennis Regan, was demoted to the rank of lieutenant yesterday.

Lt. McNeilly, formerly commander of the Zone 1 station, is now working in the Warrant Office, a Police Bureau official said. The change reduces her salary from $77,927 to $67,764. It also makes her a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, giving her job protections commanders do not have.
And here's what's in The Trib:
Pittsburgh police Chief Nathan E. Harper on Thursday demoted a veteran police commander who had accused one of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's top aides of meddling in police affairs.
What did she do? From the P-G:
Lt. McNeilly, wife of former Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr., sent a memo to City Council members Oct. 9 in which she questioned the handling of a disciplinary case against Detective Francis Rende. She alleged that Mr. Regan, then Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's nominee for public safety director, had blocked discipline against the detective, who is the brother of Mr. Regan's housemate.

Her memo gave council members details of the allegations against Detective Rende and said Mr. Regan lacked "the capacity to act fairly when it comes to disciplinary matters against our officers."
But we're forgetting the cherry on top of the sundae:
Also Friday, Mr. Ravenstahl said what Lt. McNeilly did was not an act of whistleblowing.
Of course not. But Regan resigned anyway.

So Dennis takes a free pass and Cathy gets a $10K cut in pay.

December 7, 2006

What I learned from today's City Council Budget Hearings

When Mayor Luke is absent the job of yelling "Politics!" whenever Bill Peduto asks a question apparently falls to Yarone Zober.

Zober made enough snarky asides today to start his own blog.

tags:

A Tale of Two Campaigns

As the Progress Pittsburgh blog put it:

"...the Post-Gazette is doing a great job of reprinting Ravenstahl’s press releases."
That comment was made about this P-G article which reports that people are signing up to volunteer at Luke Ravenstahl’s campaign website -- http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us.

Oops! Sorry! That's the URL for the City of Pittsburgh's website but one could be forgiven for mistaking it for Luke's own site as the home page contains his name three times as well as a revolving gallery of pictures of the mayor and a featured picture of him.

His actual campaign website is http://www.lukeformayor.com.

To call it short on content would be kind as it consists of a picture of our young mayor looking like he's borrowed his father's suit jacket (he's swimming in it). Other than a sign up page for volunteers, there's nothing else there. It's about as no frills as was his campaign announcement. As Bill Green noted on John McIntire's Flip Side show earlier this week:

No big crowd, no balloons, a surprise to reporters... what up?
According to the Ravenstahl’s campaign coordinator, Necia Hobbes, 300 people have signed up to volunteer for the campaign of a sitting mayor who is supposed to be considered hot, hip, and popular.

So let's contrast that with the pre-campaign efforts of someone who hasn't even announced yet.

Last month, a crowd of 250 people actually showed up in person at the Shadow Lounge to support Councilman Bill Peduto for Mayor. They overwhelmed the venue and spilled out into the street. They each promised to find 20 other supporters.

That did not make the papers.

This Monday will see a second pre-campaign Peduto event:

Bill Peduto Pre-campaign Event
Monday, December 11th
7:30 - 9:00
Cafe Phipps
Phipps Conservatory
One Schenley Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Expect another big crowd, but probably not so much in the way of the press . . .

tags:

Lazy-ass Republicans Cry About Having to Work for a Living

Back when local wingnut talk show host Fred Honsberger actually appeared regularly on his local cable TV show Honsberger Live, he would often rip into his audience, Pittsburghers, and Democrats about being lazy bums who were afraid of hard work. So I wonder how he would handle this story:
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who will become House majority leader and is writing the schedule for the next Congress, said members should expect longer hours than the brief week they have grown accustomed to [...]

"Keeping us up here eats away at families," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who
typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. "Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."
Is it possible that Kingston doesn't know how out of touch he sounds to the many Americans holding down 2 or 3 jobs without the benefits of healthcare and retirement packages that Congress has???

Grave and Deteriorating

That's what the ISG says about Iraq.

Rush Limbaugh has already renamed the group the "Iraq SURRENDER Group.

Subtle, huh?

The New York Times:
A bipartisan commission warned Wednesday that “the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating,” and it handed President Bush both a rebuke for his current strategy and a detailed blueprint for a fundamentally different approach, including the pullback of all American combat brigades over the next 15 months.
A tidbit from the report:
The commission’s report included blistering critiques of current policy. It said, for example, that intelligence agencies had far too few people with an understanding of the roots of the insurgency in Iraq.

“We were told there are fewer than 10 analysts on the job at the Defense Intelligence Agency who have more than two years’ experience in analyzing the insurgency,” the report said.
Analysis from the Washington Post:
From the very first page, in which co-chairmen James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton scold that "our leaders must be candid and forthright with the American people," the bipartisan report is nothing less than a repudiation of the Bush administration's diplomatic and military approach to Iraq and to the whole region.
And
The report is replete with damning details about the administration's inept handling of Iraq. It notes, for instance, that only six people in the 1,000-person embassy in Baghdad can speak Arabic fluently. It recounts how the military counted 93 acts of violence in one day in July, when the group's own reexamination of the data found 1,100 acts of violence. "Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes discrepancy with policy goals," the report says.
This is echoed in this article from the McClatchy papers(h/t to Talkingpointsmemo):
The Bush administration routinely has underreported the level of violence in Iraq in order to disguise its policy failings, the Iraq Study Group report said Wednesday.

The bipartisan group called on the Pentagon and the director of the U.S. intelligence community to immediately institute a new reporting system that provides "a more accurate picture of events on the ground."

The finding bolsters allegations by Democratic lawmakers and other critics that the Bush administration has withheld or misconstrued intelligence that conflicted with its Iraq policy while promoting data and claims that supported its positions.

Those allegations date back to President Bush's contention before the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion that Saddam Hussein was hiding illegal nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. His claim proved to be unfounded.
Disgusting though hardly surprising.
On page 94 of its report, the Iraq Study Group found that there had been "significant under-reporting of the violence in Iraq." The reason, the group said, was because the tracking system was designed in a way that minimized the deaths of Iraqis.
So it was planned that way.

Again, disgusting though hardly surprising.

I wonder what Jack Kelly Will Say Next

Remember when Jack Kelly wrote this?
Here is the history Democrats would like you to forget: The CIA began worrying in the late 1980s that North Korea was trying to build an atomic bomb. President Clinton attempted to head them off by offering a massive bribe. If the North Koreans would forgo their nuke plans, the United States would provide them with 500,000 tons of free fuel oil each year, massive food aid and build for them two $2 billion nuclear power plants. The deal made North Korea the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in Asia.

Mr. McCain was against the deal from the get-go, because it was all carrots and no sticks, and there were no safeguards against North Korean cheating.

North Korea took the bribes President Clinton offered, and kept working on its bomb.
Looks like Commando Kelly is definitely not in favor of "offering massive bribes" to North Korea to get it to shut down its nuclear program. I wonder what he's gonna think about this?
The United States has offered a detailed package of economic and energy assistance in exchange for North Korea’s giving up nuclear weapons and technology, American officials said Tuesday.
Will he call that a bribe as well?

December 6, 2006

Still Rick - He just couldn't help himself

Via Talkingpointsmemo, there's this from CNN.
The Senate voted 95-2 Wednesday to approve Robert Gates as President Bush's choice to replace Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary.

The vote came a day after the nomination sailed through the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Gates, a former CIA director, will be sworn in December 18.

Two Republican senators -- Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Jim Bunning of Kentucky -- cast the only no votes.
Whether Gates is the best person for the job is a different issue. But look at what Rick did AFTER the vote:
After Gates was confirmed, Santorum -- who lost his seat in the November election amid a wave of unhappiness about the Iraq war -- took to the Senate floor.

He delivered a nearly hourlong speech, warning of the dangers of not confronting "Islamic fascism" and its budding alliances with anti-American countries such as Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba.

"We are sleepwalking through the storm," Santorum said. "How do those who deny this evil propose to save us from these people? By negotiating through the U.N. or directly with Iran? By firing Don Rumsfeld, (and) now getting rid of John Bolton? That's going to solve the problem?"

He said he felt Gates is not "up to the task."
Why am I picturing a little kid stomping on the ground when he didn't get what he wanted for his birthday?

That's right - because that's how Rick is acting.

One more month. Just about one more month of this, right?

UPDATE: Wonkette chimes in.

More Santorum News

I don't mean to gloat, but...

OK maybe just a little.

Via our "Early Returns" friends at the P-G, I was led, via this post at Pennsyltucky, to this post
at a blog called Polysigh.
I finally had a chance to look into something that's been in my mind since the election. I noticed that Rick Santorum didn't just lose his Senate race, he got crushed, 41.3 to 58.7 percent. Incumbent Senators sometimes lose reelection, but incumbency advantages being what they are, not by this much. Plus, Senators in serious trouble usually retire rather than risk defeat and public humiliation. That got me wondering whether this was some kind of a record for worst defeat for an incumbent senator at the end of a full term (John Seymour R-CA lost with 38 percent of the vote in 1992, but he was appointed to the seat when Pete Wilson left to become governor--voters can't necessarily be held responsible for tossing out someone they never picked in the first place). It turns that Santorum's is the worst showing for an incumbent Senator in over 25 years. In 1980, George McGovern lost to James Abdnor with only 39.4 percent of the vote. Of course, McGovern was running against the Reagan landslide, so Santorum might still hold the record for a midterm loss.
Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, huh?

Let me reiterate - in recent political history, only George McGovern lost bigger than our Lil Ricky and he was washed away by the Reagan landslide of 1980.

But that's OK - John J. Miller at the National Review thinks that Lil Ricky would be a great replacement for John Bolton.
How about Rick Santorum for the UN job? Yeah, there'd probably be a confirmation fight. And he may want to take a breather after 16 years in elected office. But it's worth thinking over.
I'm done thinking, John. IT'S A BAD IDEA, John.

Though Ricks' gonna be OK. His initial pension, writes JD Prose, will be more than a lot of people make.
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn Hills, would receive an initial annual pension of $39,600, said Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union in Alexandria, Va.
This is where it's confusing. Prose writes later:
As for Santorum, Sepp said he can wait until he turns 62 to collect or take an immediate pension that would be permanently reduced by 30 percent.
Does that mean that the $39,600 represents 70% of what his pension would be if he waited until he's 62? If that's the case, Rick's looking at a pension of about $57,000 per year starting in 2020, though I am sure whatever it turns out to be, it'll be adjusted for inflation.

How long do you think it'll take Rick to jump onto the lecture circuit?

December 5, 2006

There's absolutely no truth to the rumor...

Despite the massive Ravenstahlizaton of our fair city, we understand that there's absolutely no truth to the rumor that this:


was the original Luke-approved version of Pittsburgh's New Year's Eve countdown ball.

We have no idea how these rumors get started.

Things That Happen on Fridays

In politics, there's something special about what happens on a Friday.

In politics things that happen on a Friday (at least the things that are scheduled to happen on a Friday) are usually the most embarrassing moments of that week. The idea, as I understand it, is that an administration will release embarrassing information on Friday so that it'll be reported on Saturday when fewer people pay attention to the news. And so by the time people start to pay attention (say, on the following Monday), there's so much more stuff to pay attention to that the embarrassing stuff is more easily forgotten. Cynical, I know.

This weekend is a case in point. The politically embarrasing story of how Dennis Regan was cleared of charges but resigned anyway happened this past Friday. The politically invigorating story of Mayor Luke announcing his candidacy for mayor happened the following Monday.

I think it was FDR who said that there are no coincidences in politics.

Saturday, Rich Lord reported in the P-G:
Pittsburgh's controversial Operations Director Dennis Regan resigned yesterday, even as Mayor Luke Ravenstahl closed a 50-day investigation into his actions that found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Lord gives a thumbnail sketch of the situation:
Cmdr. McNeilly strongly implied in her e-mail that Mr. Regan quashed her effort to discipline Detective Francis Rende, whom she accused of calling off sick to work side jobs.

Since a 1999 incident of misconduct, Detective Rende has been working under an agreement that said any violation of attendance policy would result in his termination. He is the brother of Marlene Cassidy, a senior secretary in the mayor's office who lives with Mr. Regan in Point Breeze.
And Mayor Luke's conclusion:
"The investigation revealed no conclusive evidence that Dennis Regan committed any wrongdoing with regard to the accusations made by Catherine McNeilly," the mayor said. He said Mr. Regan never made a personnel decision without the involvement of the mayor.
I wonder what that last sentence means. Did Regan make any personnel decisions regarding Chief McNeilly? If so, does that mean that Mayor Luke was in on those personnel decisions - whatever they were? What were they? Looks like we won't find out:
Neither he nor city Solicitor George Specter would provide any details of the investigation's findings. "That's the historic practice in handling these kinds of investigations," Mr. Specter said, also noting that the state public records law doesn't cover investigation reports.

"These types of investigations are conducted on a confidential basis, the information is obtained on a confidential basis and must remain private," the mayor said.
That's nice. Here's Justin Vellucci from The Trib:
Regan and McNeilly were suspended Oct. 12, three days after McNeilly sent Ravenstahl and City Council an e-mail accusing Regan of thwarting her attempt to discipline Officer Francis M. Rende for abusing sick time and of engineering Rende's promotion to acting detective.
That last part (about engineering Rende's promotion) was something I didn't know.

Check out this from today's Trib. They don't like what they see either.
Pittsburgh officials say an investigation found no conclusive evidence that now-former city Operations Director Dennis Regan improperly interjected himself in a disciplinary matter. In concert with the announcement, Mr. Regan, on leave for nearly two months, resigned on Friday, saying he refused to be a "political pawn." But city officials are keeping details of the investigation under wraps. They cite confidentiality rules. Yet again, public officials, public money -- but the public is denied details. This is not acceptable.
Again - Confidentiality rules. Isn't it nice how that word ("rules") can be a noun AND a verb? I'll let you think about that for a second.

Here's Regan's resignation letter. Even on the way out the door, he regurgitates Mayor Luke's habit of seeing any criticism as a political ploy:
The fact that some of your political adversaries and mine would attempt to exploit this issue for their personal political gain...
And so on. Check out The Burgh Report on this eveready response. Eventually it's gotta wear thin, right?

I'll give John McIntire the last word on this:
MacYipper Bryan is hoppin' mad about the bogus "investigation" conducted by Mayor Opie about Dennie Regan, the former Bobby O'Connor henchman who almost became Public Safety Director, though he has absolutely no experience in that department whatsoever. Mayor Opie was going to promote him, despite his lack of experience, until Police Commander Cathy McNeilly blew the whistle on him.

Commander McNeilly revealed that Regan had tried to stop her from disciplining a cop who happens to be the brother of Regan's girlfriend/housemate, who is one of Mayor Opie's secretaries. The results of the investigation were "inconclusive." Dude, everybody knows that Regan stuck his nose where it didn't belong. Everybody knows that's how he operates. You know who is fully aware of it? Mayor Opie. He may be green but he's not dumb. Of course you'd have to be an idiot not to be aware of the old school tactics of Mr. Regan.

But Mayor Opie doesn't care about truth or justice. He cares about this problem going away. Regan has become too hot a potato, so they're throwing him under the bus. I love mixing metaphors. But he's one of the best thugs around, and he could even be helpful somehow in the campaign, surreptitiously, so Mayor Opie came up with this bogus outcome where there's "no conclusive evidence."
And remember, it all happened on a Friday - so it must've been embarrassing to the Mayor.

Oops. I guess I got the last word. Sorry John.