Prosecute the torture.

January 31, 2007

Congrats to The Burgh Report!

Local Blog Makes A Difference

As The Burgh Report tells it in a post this morning:
In all seriousness, that’s what blogs can do. Folks may focus on the potential for rumor slinging, but fact checking and “sunlight-shining” really are the most productive uses for the Burghosphere.
The Burgh Report was commenting on this Trib story by Jeremy Boren. In it, we learn that Interim Mayor Luke Ravenstahl claimed to be unaware that Pittsburgh's city charter prohibits acting city directors from serving longer than 90 days without confirmation by City Council.

Boren acknowledges that it was this January 16th post on The Burgh Report which raised the issue that George Specter has been serving as Acting Solicitor for about twice the allowed number of days without confirmation.

That fact came to light originally in the comments section of The Burgh Report by someone posting under the name of "Dean."

As I said in a post yesterday, blogs can be a force for good which informs the public of events and views that they might not otherwise come across. Moreover, blogs with comment sections facilitate the free exchange of ideas and information. Additionally, they allow for the broadcasting of this information to a wider audience than one would, say, have discussing a news story around a water cooler at work.

And, just sometimes, this discussion makes its way into the MSM itself.

Again, congrats to The Burgh Report. You did the City of Pittsburgh a public service.

A Game: Who Said This?

Hey, who said this?

There is no reason for the United States of America to remain in [that country]. The American people want them home, I believe the majority of Congress wants them home, and to set an artificial date of March 31 or even February 1, in my view, is not acceptable. The criteria should be to bring them home as rapidly and safely as possible, an evolution which I think could be completed in a matter of weeks.

Our continued military presence in [that country] allows another situation to arise which could then lead to the wounding, killing or capture of American fighting men and women. We should do all in our power to avoid that.

I listened carefully to the President's remarks at a news conference that he held earlier today. I heard nothing in his discussion of the issue that would persuade me that further U.S. military involvement in the area is necessary. In fact, his remarks have persuaded me more profoundly that we should leave and leave soon.

Dates certain, Mr. President, are not the criteria here. What is the criteria and what should be the criteria is our immediate, orderly withdrawal from [that country]. And if we do not do that and other Americans die, other Americans are wounded, other Americans are captured because we stay too long--longer than necessary--then I would say that the responsibilities for that lie with the Congress of the United States who did not exercise their authority under the Constitution of the United States and mandate that they be brought home quickly and safely as possible. . . .

And this?
It is past time for the Congress to come to grips with this sorry spectacle and force the administration to find a way out of the quagmire--
And this?
As a matter of fact, while we are at it, it is high time we reviewed the War Powers Act, which, in the judgment of this Senator, should never have been passed in the first place. The sole constitutional authority to declare war rests, according to our Founding Fathers, right here in the Congress of the United States, and not on Pennsylvania Avenue. I voted against the War Powers Act. If it were to come up again today, I would vote against it. I have never regretted my opposition to it.
These were all Republican Senators (McCain, Thurmond, and Helms) - they just happened to be speaking about a Democratic President. This was 1993 and the issue was Somalia.

So Republicans have no problem seeking to limit the "war powers" of a president, as long as that president is a Democrat.

Fine. Let me say it here: It's past time for the Congress to come to grips with this sorry spectacle in Iraq and force the administration to find a way out of the quagmire. The sole constitutional authority to declare war rests with the Congress. The Congress of the United States has the authority under the Constitution of the United States to mandate that the troops be brought home from Iraq as quickly and as safely as possible.

(A humongous h/t to Unclaimed Territory)

Follow up. The P-G has the story

A follow up to this post. Rich Lord from the P-G:

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said yesterday that he asked his ally, City Councilman Jim Motznik, to refrain from future Web blog attacks on City Councilman William Peduto, a mayoral challenger.

"I don't think it's productive, and I don't think it's in the best interests of the residents," the mayor said of Mr. Motznik's blogging. "We certainly have very important issues that we need to discuss, and the blogosphere is not, in my opinion, the best avenue to do that."

Mr. Motznik said he would honor the mayor's wishes. By yesterday evening, the blog could still be viewed, but had not been updated with new postings.

Mr. Motznik's first blog posting blamed Mr. Peduto for rumors surrounding the Oct. 31, 2005, handcuffing of Mr. Ravenstahl by police at Heinz Field.

Mr. Peduto has denied any role in the rumors.

"It would surprise me that Jim would do something this substantial without Luke's blessing," Mr. Peduto said. "Luke Ravenstahl and Jim Motznik are two peas in a pod."

The mayor said he knew nothing about Mr. Motznik's plans until after the blog went up.

So I guess that makes it official: Luke say "jump" and Jim say "how high?"

2PJ in the News

Notice something INTERESTING when you load this page? In the upper right hand side, in the "video" box, the clip STARTS with a screen capture of this blog.

Oh, yea. then there's this at The Trib.

Olbermann: The Same Baby Twice, Called It Twins

Keith Olbermann hits another one out of the park. Another great "Special Comment" on lastnight's "Countdown." Crooks and Liars has the clip.

And finally tonight, as promised, a Special Comment, on presidents and terrorism…

And on the seemingly trivial fact that West Yorkshire in England, has a new Chief Police Constable.

Upon his appointment, Sir Norman Bettison made one of the strangest comments of the year: "The threat of terrorism," he says, "is lurking out there like Jaws 2."

Sir Norman did not exactly mine the richest ore for his analogy of warning. A critic once said of the flopping sequel to the classic film: "You're gonna need a better screenplay."

But this obscure British police official has reminded us, that terrorism is still being sold to the public in that country — and in this — as if it were a thrilling horror movie, and we were the naughty teenagers about to be its victims.

And it underscores the fact that President Bush took this tack, exactly a week ago tonight, in his terror-related passage in the State of the Union…

A passage that was almost lost amid all the talk about Iraq and health care and bi-partisanship and the fellow who saved the stranger from an oncoming subway train in New York City.

But a passage — ludicrous and deceitful…

Frightening in its hollow conviction…

Frightening, in that the President who spoke it tried for "Jaws" but got "Jaws 2."

I am indebted to David Swanson, press secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 Presidential campaign, who has blogged about the dubious 96 words in Mr. Bush's address this year and who has concluded that of the four counter-terror claims the President made, he went 0 for 4.

"We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented," Mr. Bush noted, "but here is some of what we do know: we stopped an Al-Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast."

This would, of course, sir, be the purported plot to knock down the 73-story building in Los Angeles, the one once known as the Library Tower — the one you personally revealed so breathlessly, a year ago next month.

It was embarrassing enough that you mistakenly referred to the structure as the Liberty Tower. But within hours, it was also revealed, that authorities in Los Angeles had had no idea you were going to make any of the details — whether serious or fanciful — public.

Who terrorized Southern California that day, Mr. Bush?

A year ago next month, the Los Angeles Times quoted a source — identified only by the labyrinthine description "a U-S official familiar with the operational aspects of the war on terrorism" — who insisted that the purported "Library Tower plot" was one of many Al-Qaeda operations that had not gotten very far past the conceptual stage.

The former staff director of counter-terrorism for the National Security Council — now NBC and MSNBC News Analyst Roger Cressey — puts it a little more bluntly.

In our conversation, he classified the "Library Tower story" into a category he called the "What-Ifs" — as in the old Saturday Night Live sketches that tested the range of comic absurdity:

– What If… Superman Had Worked For The Nazis?

– What if… Spartacus Had A Piper Cub, during the battle against the Romans in 70 B-C?

More ominously, the L.A. Times source who debunked the Library Tower story said that those who could correctly measure the flimsiness of the scheme, quote, "feared political retaliation for providing a different characterization of the plan than that of the President."

But Mr. Bush, you're the decider.

And you decided that the Library Story should be scored as one for you.

And you continued with a second dubious claim of counter-terror success. "We broke up a Southeast Asian terror cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States," you said.

Well, sir, you've apparently stumped the intelligence community completely with this one.

In his article, Mr. Swanson suggests that in the last week there has been no reporting — even hinting — at what exactly you were talking about.

He hypothesizes that either you were claiming credit for a ring broken up in 1995, or that this was just the Library Tower story, quote, "by another name."

Another CIA source suggests to NBC News that since the Southeast Asian cell dreamed of a series of attacks on the same day, you declared the Library Tower one threat thwarted, and all their other ideas, a second threat thwarted.

Our colleague Mr. Cressey sums it up: this "Southeast Asian cell" was indeed the tale of the Library Tower, simply repeated.

Repeated, Mr. Bush, in consecutive sentences in the State of the Union, in your constitutionally mandated status report on the condition and safety of the nation.

You showed us the same baby twice, and claimed it was twins.

And then you said, that was two for you.

Your third claim, sir, read thusly: "We uncovered an al-Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America." Again, the professionals in counter-intelligence were startled to hear about this.

Last fall, two Washington Post articles cited sources in the FBI and other governmental agencies who said that hopes by foreign terrorists to use anthrax in this country were fanciful at best, farcical at worst.

And every effort to link the 2001 anthrax mailings in this country to foreign sources has also struck out. The entire investigation is barely still active.

Mr. Cressey goes a little further. Anything that might even resemble an Al-Qaeda cell "developing Anthrax," he says, was in the "dreaming" stages. He used as a parallel those pathetic arrests outside Miami last year, in which a few men wound up getting charged as terrorists, because they couldn't tell the difference between an Al-Qaeda operative and an FBI informant.

Their "ring-leader" seemed to be much more interested in getting his 'terrorist masters' to buy him a new car than in actually terrorizing anybody.

That's three for you, Mr. Bush.

"And just last August," you concluded, "British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean."

In a series of dramatic raids, 24 men were arrested.

Turned out, sir, a few of them actually had gone on the internets to check out some flight schedules.

Turned out, sir, only a few of them actually had the passports needed to even get on the planes.

The plot to which President Bush referred, was a plot without bombs.

It was a plot, without any indication that the essence of the operation — the in-flight mixing of volatile chemicals carried on board in sports drink bottles — was even doable by amateurs or professional chemists.

It was a plot even without sufficient probable cause.

A third of the 24 arrested that day — exactly 90 days before the American mid-term elections — have since been released.

The British had been watching those men for a year.

Before the week was out, their first statement, that the plot was "ready to go, in days," had been rendered inoperative.

British officials told NBC News of the lack of passports and plans; told us that they had wanted to keep the suspects under surveillance for at least another week.
Even an American official confirmed to NBC's investigative unit that there was "disagreement over the timing."

The British then went further. Sources inside their government told the English newspaper the Guardian, that the raids had occurred only because the Pakistanis had arrested a man named Rasheed Raouf. That Raouf had only been arrested by Pakistan because we had threatened to do it for them.

That the British had acted only because our government was willing — to quote that newspaper "The Guardian" — to "ride roughshod" over the plans of British Intelligence.

Oh by the way, Mr. Bush, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan reduced the charges against Mr. Raouf, to possession of bomb-making materials, and being there without proper documents.

Still, sir, evidently that's close enough.

Score four for you!

Your totally black-and-white conclusions in the State of the Union were based on one gray area, and on three pallets on which the experts can't even see smudge let alone gray.

It would all be laughable, Mr. Bush, were you not the President of the United States.
It would all be political hyperbole, Mr. Bush, if you had not, on this kind of "intelligence," taken us to war, now sought to escalate that war, and are threatening new war in Iran and maybe even elsewhere.

What you gave us a week ago tonight, sir, was not intelligence, but rather a walk-through, of how speculation and innuendo, guess-work and paranoia, day-dreaming and fear-mongering, combine in your mind and the minds of your government, into proof of your derring-do and your success against the terrorists.

The ones who didn't have anthrax.

The ones who didn't have plane tickets or passports.

The ones who didn't have any clue, let alone any plots.

But they go now into our history books as the four terror schemes you've interrupted since 9/11.

They go into the collective consciousness as firm evidence of your diligence, of the necessity of your ham-handed treatment of our liberties, of the unavoidability of the 3,075 Americans dead in Iraq.

Congratulations, sir.

You are the hero of "Jaws 2." You have kept the Piper Cub out of the hands of Spartacus.

Good night, and good luck.

Keith Olbermann is a Great American, my friends.

January 30, 2007

Lukey says "Jump" Jimmy says "How high?" Motznik blog goes bye-bye!

WTAE's Bob Mayo was reporting on the flap caused by Councilman Jim Motznik's foray into the "burghosphere" and at the end of the segment he said -- I'm paraphrasing here -- that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl would like Motznik to stop blogging as it distracting from city business. Mayo said that Motznik agreed to stop blogging.

Looks like Councilman Bill Peduto was right on the mark when he said that "Luke Ravenstahl and Jim Motznik are two peas in a pod."

Luke speaks and Jim obeys.

So, what have we learned from Motznik's one whole day of blogging?

Well, for one thing, looks like Motznik was full of...uh..."it" when he blogged "I am sure you will hear from me soon enough because this campaign will be quite a mess and I will be here to make sure we can all wade through the shit and get to the truth!"

One word from the Mayor and Motznik's little truth squad of a blog folds faster than Superman on laundry day.

We also see that Ravenstahl chose not to make any distinction between just having a blog and the actual content of that blog.

Since he made no differentiation, does that mean that Ravenstahl believes that no politicians should have blogs? Does he think, for example, that US Rep. Jason Altmire should fold up his "The Freshman Class" blog hosted at the Post-Gazette?

If that's not the case, perhaps he would like to make that clear. We wouldn't want any other councilors thinking that they'd face our "hot, hip, young" Mayor's disapproval before they ever even opened a blogspot account.

We, who have been members of Pittsburgh's blogger community for more than a mere 24 hours, know that blogging can be a force for good. It can inform the public of events and views that they might not see otherwise. It can foster discussion and build connections and community.

It would be a shame to tar us all with the same brush because of one lone blogger who couldn't resist the Dark Side.

More on the Motznik Blog

Rich Lord has more in today's P-G:

"I'm going to keep doing it whenever I need to set the record straight," he said. Mr. Motznik's first post blames Mr. Peduto, a mayoral challenger, for a Jan. 18 blog entry by Mr. McIntire, a former talk show host. That entry noted that some "versions" of a widely circulating story had Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (then a councilman) pushing a police officer in 2005, then getting off the hook thanks to intervention by former city Operations Director Dennis Regan.

After that blog post, Mr. Ravenstahl described the Oct. 31, 2005, Heinz Field incident as an argument with an officer, in which he was handcuffed, but not arrested or charged. He denied pushing the officer or involving Mr. Regan.

Mr. Motznik writes in his blog that "it seems like McIntire was led astray by Councilman Peduto. ... Boy, it must suck when you have such little credibility already and now you have Peduto, and his people, feeding you false information that you then post on the [I]nternet."

Here's the January 18 edition (it's virtually identical to what he wrote the day before) of the Macyapper blog.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF OPIEGATE

Word on the street: Opie was rowdy. Somebody called security. A cop tried to reign Opie in. Opie got belligerent and pushed the cop. Opie allegedly begged for forgiveness once they slapped the cuffs on him.

THAT'S RIGHT, THEY SLAPPED THE CUFFS ON HIM.

Then what happened? Even though Bobby O wasn't yet Mayor, he was virtually the Mayor because he'd already won the Democratic primary. Somebody, either Opie or someone on Opie's behalf, called either O'Connor or Regan and told them of Opie's impending dilemma. Cause dude, you can't push a cop and not get charged for it. Unless you're the a City Councilman with connections.

So according to this version, which some news outlet, broadcast or print (they're all dying to break it first)will break soon, Dennie Regan put the fix in to make Opie shoving the cop thing go away.

And here's what Motznik wrote about it:
“Word on the street”: a conversation was overheard in which McIntire was quite pissed off about false information that Peduto gave him. Peduto told McIntire that the Honorable Mayor Luke Ravenstahl “pushed” a cop and was “rowdy”…both untrue. Peduto also told McIntire that Mayor Ravenstahl “called either O’Connor or Regan” to get him out of trouble and that is the reason there was nothing made of this in 2005…also untrue. Boy, it must suck when you have such little credibility already and now you have Peduto, and his people, feeding you false information that you then post on the internet. No wonder, “according to this version,” McIntire called Peduto all pissed off. Maybe he will post a retraction and fess up to Peduto leaking the bad tips…probably not, that would be too much to expect from McIntire!
Notice anything? The two don't really match. For instance nowhere does McIntire say that he got the info from Peduto. Indeed he's on record denying it. From the P-G:
Mr. McIntire said Mr. Peduto had "absolutely, positively, unequivocally no" role in his posting...
And Motznik is incorrect when he says that it's untrue that Mayor Luke was "rowdy." Mayor Luke even admitted it. We should also note that Motznik doesn't address the handcuffs. We can then assume, I guess, that he doesn't think that that part of the story is untrue. But if it was, then why were they slapped on the mayor if he wasn't rowdy?

In any event, Motznik has made some direct statements of fact ("Peduto told McIntire that...") yet nowhere does he even hint at how he acquired that information. So now Mr Motznik has an obligation to explain himself. Does he have a source who told him that McIntire's source was Peduto? How does the source know? Was he or she there? Motznik said it himself, he's "going to set the record straight." Ok - he should start with his first blog posting.

It's all about credibility, baby. If in your first trip out into the blogosphere, you bullshit your audience, then how (indeed WHEN) can they ever believe you in the future?

January 29, 2007

Welcome Aboard, Councilman Motznik!

It's getting messy out here, gang.

Councilman Jim Motznik has a blog. Rich Lord has the story.

City Councilman Jim Motznik is blogging, and Pittsburgh politics is a more perilous place.

The outspoken Overbrook Democrat today became one of politics early adopters of Web blogging, a six-year-old phenomenon in which a commentator posts thoughts and images online, usually unedited.

And:

His first targets, in posts made this afternoon, were Councilman William Peduto and local blogger John McIntire. But Mr. Motznik stressed that no political topic would be off limits.

Here's a taste of what he said on the blog:

Anyone remember McIntire on “The Real Deal” with Marty Griffin? Well if you don’t I’m sure Marty still does. “The unofficial speculative version” is that callers would dial in and when they would get on the air to either ask a question or make a comment McIntire would shut them up if he didn’t agree with what they had to say – referring to callers as “morons” and telling them to brush their teeth, because all Pittsburghers have brown teeth.

Wow, he came out swinging, didn't he?

Actually McIntire did not say what Motznik says he said. There was a caller and he said some silly things and McIntire called him a moron. That part is true. However in response to something the caller said, McIntire, in a thick Pittsburghese accent, told the guy to go have another cigarette because "you're teeth aren't brown enough yet." It was a joke, by the way. Perhaps Motznik missed that point. It may not have been the most tasteful way of pawning off a goofy caller, but that's what McIntire did. He said nothing about "all Pittsburghers having brown teeth."

For those of you who don't know (or who don't remember) Jim Motznik is the guy who thought he was going to be city council president a few months ago - until the council actually voted on it and Doug Shields got 7 out of 8 votes (the eighth being, of course, Jim Motznik's).

We blogged on it here.

And lest we think that Jim Motznik is a neutral party in the coming election, take a look at what Jon Delano wrote in December, 2005 about Luke Ravenstahl's becoming Council President:
So Motznik, in some quarters, masterminds the election of young Ravenstahl. Why? To get back at Bodack and the other council members who refused to support him. Others say that gives Motznik too much credit -- that Luke was just a good compromise choice. In any case, Motznik, Ricciardi, Deasey agree to back Ravenstahl, but, of course, Luke still needs a fifth vote. Enter, according to some sources, Mayor-elect Bob O'Connor. The story, which is vehemently denied by others, is that O'Connor got his protege and one-time top aide, councilman Doug Shields, to give Ravenstahl the fifth vote -- and the council presidency. Why would O'Connor and Shields do that? Well, nothing helps a mayor more than a city council president who owes him something.

And so if Delano's sources are right, it's obviously very important for Jim Motznik's guy (Ravenstahl) to get elected mayor over Bill Peduto. If Ravenstahl looses, then all those favors would be flushed down the drain, wouldn't they?

And we should mention Motznik's history with McIntire as well. Check this aht. McIntire wrote last October:

Council's May 31 "debate" about new spending limits was laughable.

Councilors Bill Peduto and Doug Shields introduced a measure that would have stopped an absurd practice. Currently, as Shields put it, if a councilman wants to, he can take, say, $500 out of his miscellaneous account, and go hand out $1 bills to kids in the park.

Such practices are "for each council member to decide," says Councilor Jim Motznik, who knows a thing or two about milking the system. He was double-billing the city for gasoline until he was called on it by WTAE Channel 4. Then he took off running when they tried to confront him on camera.

That part's actually true. Here's the link to the TAE story.

Anyway, Motznik ends his first blog posting with this:
Well, MotzYappers, that’s all for now. I am sure you will hear from me soon enough because this campaign will be quite a mess and I will be here to make sure we can all wade through the shit and get to the truth!
But who's shit would we need to wade through?

The Debate Across The Atlantic

I happened to catch (on C-SPAN) Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, give a pretty amazing speech during a debate in the British House of Commons.

The setting was a debate on the war in Iraq and Tony Blair wasn't present. Early on Campbell said:
With almost chilling regularity, every Wednesday we now find ourselves having to acknowledge fatalities in Iraq. I do not know how the Prime Minister feels, or the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), but it is the bleakest moment of the week for me. But that is nothing to the blight on the lives of the families and friends of those who have been killed. They are brave men and women who do their duty in Iraq, and I yield to no one in my admiration for them for their professionalism and their courage. Today they deserved to hear all the party leaders. The Prime Minister owed that to them.
Hearing the names of the American deaths in Iraq almost always stops me in my tracks as well. Whenever they're read, I stop what I'm doing to listen - just out of simple respect. Happened this sunday at lunch, in fact. I was having a pastrami sandwich at Kazansky's when I happened to look up at the restaurant's big screen TV. They were showing the names of the recently killed. Always very sad.

Back to the debate. These words were spoken on the floor of the House of Commons last week:

I am fortified in my view that it was an illegal war based on a flawed prospectus by the increasing number of converts to scepticism. Indeed, few candidates for Labour's deputy leadership seem willing to defend the decision in public. It was a question of judgment for all of us, but our judgment has been vindicated by events since then. What has happened since November 2003? As the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) pointed out, there were no weapons of mass destruction. There was inadequate preparation for the aftermath of military action and the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) was among those who made that point with great force at the time and deserves credit for doing so.

We have seen insensitivity and the mismanagement of coalition activities. We have seen the humiliation and obscenity of Abu Ghraib, the destruction of Falluja, the endemic corruption and, more recently, the macabre execution of Saddam Hussein. Along with that go the woeful failures in reconstruction, so that public services such as electricity, water and sewerage are worse now than they were under Saddam Hussein. We may all be able to agree, no matter how we voted on 18 March 2003, that the United Kingdom will never do anything similar again.

I also feel vindicated by the leaked documents that we have seen and the memoirs that have been published. Whatever was said in public—and a variety of things were said in public—we now know that the principal objective of the United States was regime change. That was always their objective. Why else would the British ambassador, after a lunch with Condoleezza Rice, have reported back to London that he told her that we would not resile from regime change? Of course, that policy was fundamentally and irreparably illegal, under article 2.4 of the charter of the United Nations.

That's the big point here. It's an "irreparably illegal" war based on the UN Charter. It took me a second to find it, but here's article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter:
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
This last point was challenged by Michael Gove, Conservative MP from Surrey Heath, who asked:
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred repeatedly to the liberation of Iraq as illegal. Like me, he will have noted that as a result of that liberation millions of Iraqis took part for the first time in free, multi-party elections to help to create a democratic coalition Government. Does he consider that the Iraqi men and women who voted in those elections were party to a crime and does he regret for a moment opposing a war that resulted in their liberation?
To which Campbell replied:
Of course I do not. If the hon. Gentleman is arguing that the rules do not matter, that the ends always justify the means and that the charter of the United Nations is to be observed when it is in our interests but disregarded when it is not, he contemplates a world of such chaos as none of us can properly contemplate.
And so on. When do you think we'll ever see English used like this in the Senate or the House of Representatives? Snowflake's chance of ever hearing anything so, uh, grammatically correct, coming out of the current White House.

One final point, Campbell pointed out the illegality of the war based on the UN Charter. But does that trump US Law? Doesn't have to. Treaties signed and ratified by the Senate become US Law.

Says so in the Constitution. Article VI:
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
See?

Have a good monday.

January 27, 2007

News on the Protest

The AP:
Protesters energized by fresh congressional skepticism about the Iraq war demanded a withdrawal of U.S. troops in a demonstration Saturday that drew tens of thousands and brought Jane Fonda back to the streets.
Oh geez. I can hear the wingnuts now. As soon as they read the words "Jane Fonda" that's all they'll talk about. Just wait - you'll see. It should take about 6 minutes for the right to start talking "Hanoi Jane" 24/7. They may even pull out that picture of Fonda and John Kerry. When they do, it's a guarantee that they're hoping you'll miss this part:

Standing on her toes to reach the microphone, 12-year-old Moriah Arnold told the crowd: "Now we know our leaders either lied to us or hid the truth. Because of our actions, the rest of the world sees us as a bully and a liar."

The sixth-grader from Harvard, Mass., the youngest speaker on the National Mall stage, organized a petition drive at her school against the war.

A sixth grader's annoyed enough to organize a petition. They're also hoping to distract you from this part:

The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. John Conyers, threatened to use congressional spending power to try to stop the war. " George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing," he said, looking out at the masses. "He can't fire you." Referring to Congress, the Michigan Democrat added: "He can't fire us.

"The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today. Now only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush."

And then this:

A small contingent of active-duty service members attended the rally, wearing civilian clothes because military rules forbid them from protesting in uniform.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Tassi McKee, 26, an intelligence specialist at Fort Meade, Md., said she joined the Air Force because of patriotism, travel and money for college.

"After we went to Iraq, I began to see through the lies," she said.
In the crowd, signs recalled the November elections that defeated the Republican congressional majority in part because of Bush's Iraq policy. "I voted for peace," one said.

Hey, me too!

Lest we think that the protesters (as I am sure the wingnuts will claim) are "out of touch with mainstream America" Newsweek is reporting on a poll that paints a different picture. When asked "Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?" those polled answered 2-to-1 against being "satisfied" (61 to 30 percent).

Have a good Saturday.

Protests are patriotic!

January 26, 2007

Politics As Usual: Ravenstahl Style

Part I
Just don't call it "political"

I had blessedly forgotten that it was coming but then there it was in my mail this week. One more oversized postcard ostensibly touting the "Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Response Line" plastered with Lukey's full color portrait. This piece to now be added to my collection which includes: the oversized "Redd Up Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl" postcard with Lukey's full color portrait telling me my garbage collection day may change (it didn't); and the six-page, full-size flyer with Lukey's full color portrait (and five other full color pics of Lukey) reminding me of the "Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Response Line" along with the "Redd Up Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl" program and, oh yeah, my trash collection calendar.

Not to mention the ubiquitous billboards and All Luke All the Time city website . . .

This isn't even a joke anymore.

As I've mentioned before, I'm convalescing. I now have homecare nurses coming to the house twice a day and you can believe that I've broached the subject of the mayor's race to them. When I held up this latest bit of campaign lit junk mail informative printed material, they've each shaken their heads.

Really, Luke, folks are starting to talk -- and not just on the blogs.


Part II
It was "political" and then it wasn't

Back in October when Mayor Luke Ravenstahl nominated former Operations Director Dennis Regan to be Pittsburgh's Public Safety Director, City Councilman Bill Peduto, rightfully pointed out that Regan had absolutely no qualifications for the position. Peduto suggested that Fire Chief Michael Huss would make an excellent choice instead.

Ravenstahl dubbed this a "political" move.

Then, Ravenstahl was forced to back down on his pick of Regan when accusations of Regan's excessive interference in police matters surfaced and Regan resigned.

So three months later, who does Ravenstahl now nominate? He nominates Fire Chief Michael Huss.

The Burgh Report has all the gory details with all of Lukey's quotes. links, and video. They also link to a marvelously snarky Eric Heyl column in the Trib on this topic.

Well THIS Certainly Inspires Confidence

From CBS News:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that President George W. Bush did not consult her before announcing his new strategy for the war in Iraq — a sign that, despite the cozy rhetoric, the relationship between Washington's two powerhouses has already had its share of friction.

In an interview, Pelosi also said she was puzzled by what she considered the president's minimalist explanation for his confidence in the new surge of 21,500 U.S. troops that he has presented as the crux of a new "way forward" for U.S. forces in Iraq.

"He's tried this two times — it's failed twice," the California Democrat said. "I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?' And he said, 'Because I told them it had to.' "

Asked if the president had elaborated, she added that he simply said, " 'I told them that they had to.' That was the end of it. That's the way it is."

That's it? "Because I told them it had to."??

So that explains all the previous failures in Iraq. Dubya hadn't yet told them that it all "had to" work.

Isn't it comforting to know that the Commander-in-Chief has such a pragmatic, realistic approach to running his war? It'll work this time simply because he says it has to.

Who elected him God?

In any event, I'm sure the families intimately connected to dubya's war all appreciate knowing that he's issued new instructions. If only (fill in the blank with any of the three thousand plus names on this list) had known.

If only.

McIntire's gonna be on OffQ

I don't think this has been announced yet, but I've been told by a pretty good source that John McIntire will actually be (now hold onto your hats, gang) sitting next to Fred Honsberger on the February 2nd edition of OffQ.

They'll be within 4 feet of each other. I expect to see the whole space-time continuum bend, creak and then shred along partisan lines.

Should be fun to watch.

This week freelance writer Ellen James will be on.

January 25, 2007

Better Know Jason Altmire

Congressman Jason Altmire (4th District PA) appeared on the "Better Know A District" segment on last night's The Colbert Report.

Altmire managed to avoid looking as foolish as some of the other pols who've gone up against Colbert, but he did succumb to demonstrating his alma mater's tomahawk chop and chant twice during the piece. Not the greatest move given the sensitivity issue of using Native American symbols as team mascots. As the Post-Gazette reports it, after he did the chop as requested Colbert responded with:
"So you have no national aspirations?" Colbert said to Altmire, who looked a little shocked.
Altmire did manage to get across a serious point: that the Iraq War had little to do with the "War on Terror." Kudos to that.

I must say that seeing Cranberry portrayed as Amish Country by the show was a bit bizarre.

If anyone finds a video link for the segment, let me know.

Update: The Clip can be found here.

More Follow-up on the State of the Union Speech

From the Washington Post:
In his State of the Union address last night, President Bush presented an arguably misleading and often flawed description of "the enemy" that the United States faces overseas, lumping together disparate groups with opposing ideologies to suggest that they have a single-minded focus in attacking the United States.
But the good stuff is found later on in the article. Take a look:
On domestic policy, Bush at one point said that "the recovery" has added more than 7.2 million jobs since August 2003. But the net number of jobs created since Bush became president in January 2001, is much lower -- just 3.6 million. The Bush administration's performance is fairly mediocre for the sixth year of a presidency, according to historical statistics maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly 18 million jobs were added by the sixth year of Bill Clinton's presidency -- and nearly 10 million were added at this point in Ronald Reagan's presidency.
And the point that the fiscal conservative crowd should be screaming about:
Bush claimed credit for cutting the budget deficit ahead of schedule and proposed to eliminate it over the next five years. He did not mention that he inherited a huge budget surplus -- $236 billion in 2000 -- compared with a $296 billion deficit in the 2006 fiscal year, largely as a result of Bush's tax cuts and spending increases.
So he inherits a $236 billion surplus, slashes it to ribbons (via "tax cuts and spending increases") and finds himself 6 years later with a $296 billion defict...and this is a good thing?

Can you tell I ain't a big fan?

The Latest from Johnny Mac

Looks like the Handcuffed Luke story's died down a bit as I didn't see any fallout from Johnnie Mac's latest:

The new source claims Opiegate went down this way:

Opie's Dad the DJ was at the game. He reportedly became concerned about his sun (sic) being led away in handcuffs, understandably. This source reports Dad called Bobby O, Bobby O called Dennie Regan, and Dennie put the fix in to get Opie off the hook.

Yes, Bobby O wasn't mayor yet. But everyone knew he would be soon, since he'd already won the Dem primary. Bobby O and Dad were thick as thieves because a long time ago, Dad's Dad, Opie's grandfather, lost an election to former Mayor Tom Murphy. So the Opie family hates Murphy. And of course Bobby O was a perennial Murphy opponent.

Few people remember that Opie, as a freshman city councilman, actually had the balls to call for Murphy's resignation. The long time family hatred contributed to this undoubtedly.

This is why Opie was always able to say he never called anyone. Because he didn't.
Dad the DJ couldn't call Murphy as explained above. He couldn't call squeaky clean just the facts ma'm Joe Friday guy Chief McNeilly, 'cause he, too, was a Murphy guy. Bobby O was his only option. And according to this source, he exercised it.

Take it or leave it, but that's what the man say.

I do want to reiterate something else the Macyapper wrote:

You may have noticed that Opie regularly selectively denies various versions of events, because rarely did reporters have the complete goods on him.

Although, as MacYapper previously pointed out, he lied to Rick Earle when asked about handcuffs, and lied to Marty Griffin when asked if there had ever been an "incident" involving police.

Can't say I disagree with that.

January 24, 2007

Some Thoughts on the State of the Union Speech

From here and there:

Washington Post:

President Bush implored lawmakers and the nation last night to give him one more chance to win the war in Iraq and avoid the "nightmare scenario" of defeat while presenting a domestic agenda intended to find common cause with the new Democratic Congress on issues such as energy and immigration.
And:

Yet his approach contrasted with the last two presidents to address an opposition Congress after their parties lost midterm elections. Ronald Reagan conceded "serious mistakes" in 1987, as did Bill Clinton in 1995. Clinton moved to the middle so conspicuously that the opposition leader who gave the official response noted that he "sounded pretty Republican." Although Bush acknowledged two weeks ago that "mistakes have been made" in Iraq, he appeared unchastened last night and took no responsibility for his party's defeat or errors in office.
Of course not. This is not the administration that ever takes responsibility for anything it's done wrong.

Josh Marshall at Talkingpointsmemo:

What a strange man. After disarmingly gracious opening remarks about Nancy Pelosi's speakership, the president congratulates the 'Democrat majority' -- words most every Democrat takes as a calculated insult. The prepared remarks say "Democratic majority". But apparently he couldn't help himself.
He does say at his youtube response that since the underlying message of the President's speech wasn't clear, it was impossible to write well describing it.

The New York Times:

President Bush tried to resuscitate his ailing presidency Tuesday night, using his State of the Union address to present a modest agenda of energy and health care proposals while warning an increasingly assertive Congress against undercutting his new Iraq strategy.

It was a speech that reflected Mr. Bush’s difficult circumstances. It was limited in ambition and political punch at home, with no proposals to rival his call two years ago to remake Social Security, no mention of rebuilding New Orleans and no allusions to limiting stem cell research or banning gay marriage.

And when it came to his plan to send additional troops to Iraq, he was forced to plead with the Democrats who now control Congress — and with a growing number of Republican critics — to “give it a chance to work.”

The AP (via The Trib):

A politically weakened President Bush implored a skeptical Congress Tuesday night to embrace his unpopular plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq, saying it represents the best hope in a war America must not lose. "Give it a chance to work," he said.

Facing a political showdown with Democrats and Republicans alike, Bush was unyielding on Iraq in his annual State of the Union address. He also sought to revive his troubled presidency with proposals to expand health insurance coverage and to slash gasoline consumption by 20 percent in a decade.

From Jason Altmire (in an e-mailed press release):

Unfortunately, the President continues to go-it-alone, particularly on the war in Iraq . He has taken an approach that ignores the wishes of the American people, the advice of military generals and the independent Iraq Study Group. President Bush's plan will not bring success in Iraq or make America more secure. Instead, it will put 22,000 more troops into harm's way. We need a change of course and to hear from the President that our commitment is not open-ended.

Jonathan Alter, Senior Editor of Newsweek (via Hardblogger):

Something unprecedented happened tonight, beyond the doorkeeper announcing, “Madame Speaker.” For the first time ever, the response to the State of the Union overshadowed the president’s big speech. Virginia Sen. James Webb, in office only three weeks, managed to convey a muscular liberalism-with personal touches-that left President Bush’s ordinary address in the dust. In the past, the Democratic response has been anemic—remember Washington State Governor Gary Locke? This time it pointed the way to a revival for national Democrats.
Which brings me to the Democratic Response. The OPJ linked to the video here.

Alter was not wrong. The speech overshadowed dubya's in every way. About 3/4 of the way through he said:

Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues -- those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death -- we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm's way.

We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us -- sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.

The president took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the Army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable -- and predicted -- disarray that has followed.

All in all I think the media's reading of it is right. Bush is weakened political and went, hat in hand, to the Democratically controlled Congress to ask (some say "implore") for just a little more time. It's a long way from his usual Texas style faux swagger. How many more months until someone OTHER than dubya delivers the SOTU speech?

Can't wait.

Webb's Response to SOTU Speech

Here's Senator Jim Webb giving the official Democratic response to Bush's SOTU speech last night (in case you missed it):

January 23, 2007

Mayor Luke's Pledge

Both city papers (The Trib and the P-G) have the story about Mayor Luke's pre-emptive pledge to run a clean campaign. The P-G:
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl pledged yesterday to conduct "a cleanly contested and meaningful mayoral campaign" in a letter to the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh.
And The Trib:

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today vowed to run a mayoral campaign that's free of dirty politics.

Ravenstahl, 26, of Summer Hill, said he has signed a clean campaign pledge from the Pittsburgh chapter of the League of Women Voters.

"My spoken words and campaign materials will reflect truth. I will not engage in fraud or deception, or falsely portray the background or record of an opponent," Ravenstahl wrote in the one-page pledge.

This, of course, was a complete coincidence coming as it did the day his main rival, Councilman Bill Peduto, announced his campaign to run for Mayor. From The P-G:
League President Suzanne Broughton said, though, that such a letter was premature, noting that the nonpartisan group waits to issue its annual clean campaign code until all candidates have filed to run, which occurs in March.
Pure coincidence, of course.

Anyway, one part of Mayor Luke's pledge caught my eye:
My spoken words and campaign materials will reflect truth. I will not engage in fraud or deception, or falsely portray the background or record of an opponent...
Since it runs head on into something already on the mayor's official city website:
Ravenstahl also led the charge to move forward the City’s downtown Wi-Fi plan, improving the quality of life for every Pittsburgher by allowing for improved internet access.
One day after the pledge and already a mislead from the Mayor's office. We've previously blogged on this (here and here) but it might be a good idea to revisit the facts.

One just needs to take a look at this 11-page report from April of 2005 to see where Mayor Luke's got it wrong. The report starts this way:
At the request of City Councilman, William Peduto, a working group was formed in July 2004 to evaluate the current information and communications technologies (“ICT”) environmentin Pittsburgh and make recommendations on ways the City can improve the ICT environment. The ICT Working Group is composed of ICT users, service providers and members of theacademic and government communities.

And this from page 4:

Information and communication technologies involve a broad range of services, from
high speed internet access to basic telephone service. The economic viability as well as quality of life of a region is dependent on a vibrant ICT environment.

With this in mind, City Councilman, William Peduto requested a working group be
formed as a subcommittee of the Pittsburgh Cable Communication Advisory Committee to assess the current ICT environment in the City of Pittsburgh. The ICT Working Group was formed in July 2004 and has met on a monthly basis to discuss and assess the ICT environmentin Pittsburgh and make recommendations as to how Pittsburgh can improve this environment.

And finally this from page 7:

The Working Group also discussed several other issues such as a City owned Wi Fi network and the use of ICT services to facilitate the democratic process. In particular, the deployment of the Wi Fi network in Philadelphia was discussed, however these discussions didnot result in any consensus on the part of the Working Group.

So, what can we gather from these paragraphs? That a working group formed by Peduto in July of 2004 to discussed setting up the Wi Fi network. Oh, and Mayor Ravenstahl is not mentioned in the document at all.

By the way, he only began his tenure at City Council 7 months before.

Do you see my confusion? The Mayor's city website states that he "led the charge to move forward" for the city's Wi Fi network. Yesterday he said he's pledged not to engage in fraud or deception in this campaign and yet...

Now that's what I call a rally! Peduto makes it official

Bill Peduto had been promising a blowout rally when he made his official announcement to run for the office of Mayor of Pittsburgh so I was expecting something big, but the actual rally far exceeded my expectations.

As I looked around the room before the candidate entered I blurted to a friend that this looks like a rally for a winner. But later that evening someone said it looks like Pittsburgh -- and that was the winning remark.

Because despite the nay-sayers on some of the blogs who say that Peduto can't get beyond a boho or "cupcake class" base, what I saw was a remarkably diverse group of supporters in terms of age, geography, class, race, sex, etc.

It looked like Pittsburgh.

(And it certainly didn't hurt that there was a nice percentage of ACDC members there too.)

It couldn't have been more of a contrast to Luke Ravenstahl's own announcement which was limited to Ravenstahl, his wife, his minder County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, and Rep. Mike Doyle.

The audience was jazzed and ate up Peduto's speech.

The Post-Gazette got it right when they said that Peduto's most popular line was when he called for the need for "independent, responsible, experienced leadership," and said that the city "needs independent leadership to dismantle the political machine."

That, my dears, was the issue to a lot of the folks who came to cheer Bill on.

Not a bad one in my humble opinion . . .

Now as to the local television coverage of the event, WTAE best captured the size and excitement of the group. KDKA was barely adequate. I did not catch WPXI at 11, but I did catch their coverage on FOX 53 News and all I can say is "WTF?"

Look guys, if the truck got lost on the way and you were only able to get footage of the hall after most people had left, maybe you have an excuse but you should let your viewers know that. The only way they could have misrepresented the evening more was if they had waited until the hall was entirely empty and actually broadcast an empty room. (I gave up being a regular WPXI News viewer after they repeatedly reported that the 2004 Kerry rally at Pitt had "hundreds" in attendance when everyone else correctly reported it as thousands.)

I did take some snaps, but be forewarned that I am still unable to access Photoshop, so these pics are uncropped and entirely unlovely (I had to email them to David just to get them resized for the blog). Also, I'm still quite ill and had no business being out tonight so I confined myself almost entirely to a chair on the side of the room.

With that said, here they are:


Trying (unsuccessfully) to capture the size of crowd.


Trying to capture Peduto as he made his way to the stage. Yeah,
it was to the theme from "Rocky" and, yeah, it sounded just right.


The Man of the Hour


Halfway through his speech, Peduto invited the audience
to join him on the stage. This is the view from there.


That's all Folks!


tags:

January 22, 2007

Blog for Choice (Maria's Answer)

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007


As David blogged here, today is the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. "Bush v. Choice" in conjunction with NARAL Pro-Choice America is calling it "Blog for Choice Day" and asking pro choice bloggers to post why they are pro choice.

My answer?

A woman must have the right to control her own body -- and that necessarily must include anything that may going on inside it.

Simple, no?

Yeah, it gets messy if there's a fetus in there, and more messy the older that fetus is.

But you either get to control your body or you don't.

And women and girls face an opposition who believes that a mass of cells smaller then the head of a pin has not just equal rights, but more rights, than the woman or girl herself.

I will never understand that.

I will also never believe that a man would put up with everyone and his uncle trying to micromanage his body.

So I'm pro choice.

Period.

And because there's no better day than today to mention this again, please keep in mind that our very own "hot, hip, young" mayor is a self proclaimed "social conservative" and anti choice.

Blog for Choice

I was reminded today that it's Blog for Choice day.

The instructions were simple:
This year's topic is a simple one: tell us, and your readers, why you're pro-choice.
The foundation of my pro-choice stance is a little different from what I pick up around me. Though, by presenting my point of view, I am in no way invalidating any of the other importnat and necessary pro-choice positions.

For me, the issue is religion. Scratch the surface of an anti-abortion argument and you'll find a religious argument underneath. For instnace, we're told by some that "life begins at conception." Ok, fine but other religions may have different definitions of when life begins. Which definition is the one to become law? For those seeking to impose abortion restrictions, it's obvious to me that they're seeking to impose a specific metaphysical doctrine on the rest of the population.

That's something that the First Amendment expressly forbids. The government can not take sides, as it were, in a religious debate.

When is the Sabbath? Is Mary, the Mother of Christ, really the Queen of Heaven? Does God exist and if He does, what authority does he have over the rest of us? All these may be important theological questions, but they could not be settled (if indeed they could ever be) by a majority vote in a state or federal legislature.

And neither is the answer to the question, "When does life begin."

If you doubt this, imagine yourself living as a religious minority (say in Kabul) where the legislature votes overwhelmingly to impose a set of beliefs with which you disagree.

In a truly free society, each woman (for let's all remember who we're talking about here) would be free to make her own decisions regarding faith (which one, if any, she decides to follow) and thus she would be free to make her own decisions regarding her health, her privacy, and whether she should continue a pregnancy.

It's all about freedom, pure and simple.

More Bad News For Dubya

According to a poll released by AP/AOL, lotsa folks don't think the country's heading in the right direction. From the AP:
Two-thirds of Americans, 66 percent, think the country is on the wrong track. That's about the same as a year ago, when 65 percent thought so, the poll found.
A few paragraphs later:
Iraq remains the public's top concern, with 65 percent disapproving of Bush's handling of the situation.
Then there's this from Newsweek:

When President George W. Bush declared earlier this month that the only way to quell sectarian violence in Iraq was to send more than 20,000 additional American troops, he probably knew the move would be unpopular. Indeed, the latest NEWSWEEK poll finds that Bush’s call for a “surge” in troops is opposed by two-thirds (68 percent) of Americans and supported by only a quarter (26 percent). Almost half of all respondents (46 percent) want to see American troops pulled out “as soon as possible.”

Bush’s Iraq plan isn’t doing anything for his personal approval rating either; it’s again stuck at its lowest point in the history of the poll (31 percent). Meanwhile, the new Democratic-controlled Congress is getting relatively high marks. And 55 percent actually trust Congressional Dems on U.S. policy in Iraq, far more than the 32 percent who trust their commander in chief.

What must be even scarier for dubya can be found in the poll itself. To the question:
Now thinking ahead to the next presidential election. In general, would you rather see a Democrat or a Republican elected as our next president in 2008?
49% said they'd want to see a Democrat elected president as opposed to only 28% who'd want to see a Republican elected.

The bad news continued. When asked whether dubya has "strong leadership qualities", is "honest and ethical", and "cares about people like you", a majority answered "no" each time.
  • 57% said he did not show "leadership qualities."
  • 54% said he was not "honest and ethical."
  • And a whopping 60% said he did not "care about people like you."
That's bad.

More evidence that this is a failed presidency from a failed political party.

January 21, 2007

Meanwhile, Outside of Pittsburgh

The AP is reporting that:

At least 20 American service personnel were killed in military operations Saturday in one of the deadliest days for U.S. forces since the Iraq war began, and authorities also announced two U.S. combat deaths from the previous day.

The day's worst loss came from the crash of a U.S. Army helicopter northeast of Baghdad that killed 13 service members. An attack Saturday night blamed on militiamen in the city of Karbala killed five soldiers. Roadside bombs killed another soldier in the capital and one in Nineveh province north of Baghdad.

According to the website Iraq Coalition Casualties, as of today (1/21/2007) 3047 American Servicement and women have been killed in dubya's war. 146 (again, as of 1/21/07) from Pennsylvania alone.

January 20, 2007

More On Luke

In today's P-G:
The Pittsburgh police chief at the time of the 2005 handcuffing of now-Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said yesterday that the incident should've been documented and that the mayor erred by arguing with an officer and then not going public with the details sooner.
But wait. Wasn't the "Pittsburgh police chief at the time of the 2005 handcuffing" Robert McNeilly? And isn't Robert McNeilly married to Catherine McNeilly? And doesn't Catherine McNeilly have a case pending against the city? So we can pretty much lump Chief McNeilly in with all the other politically motivated critics, right?

Mayor Luke does:

The mayor responded that former chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr.'s comments are proof that the rumors that long swirled around the Halloween handcuffing were a political smear campaign.

"I made my comments yesterday that I think there are political people behind it," the mayor said, a day after giving his account of the incident. "I think some of those that came forward today just vindicate and validate my belief that this is politically motivated."

But then again the mayor has a habit of labelling any criticism as "politically motivated." But let's take a look at what Chief McNeilly said:

"In a high-profile situation, everybody up the chain of command should've been notified," he said. That is the case even if the officer is working a private security job, as was Officer Hoehn.

"Some documentation should've been made," Chief McNeilly said.

"If they released him, they should've explained why they [handcuffed him]." Otherwise, he said, "Ravenstahl could've made the accusation that he was falsely arrested. That's a criminal, as well as civil, issue."

And the executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board agrees.
"There should've, at minimum, been a field contact report," said Elizabeth C. Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board. "This guy was restrained. He identified himself as an official. ... Just by virtue of that, they should've made a note of it."
As far as I know, Pittinger has none of the baggage that McNeilly (either McNeilly) has. That should at least dampen the sound of Luke's defenders as they shout "politically motivated!"

The Trib's got the story too.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl should have asked for an investigation into the police officer who handcuffed him before a 2005 Steelers game at Heinz Field, the city's former top cop said today.

"Something strange was happening there. There was no documentation and no notification to superior officers. And no complaint about the officer's conduct," said former police Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr. "This disappoints me. Any time you would have a public official put in handcuffs and detained, it should have made it up the chain of command."

And:

No complaints about the incident were made to the Citizens Police Review Board or the city Office of Municipal Investigations.

"The way this was handled raises a lot of questions," said review board Executive Director Beth Pittinger. "Even if Ravenstahl was not told he was under arrest, he wasn't free to go. You would expect that since this situation involved a public official it would have generated some kind of report or paperwork. And as a public official, if Ravenstahl had a concern about the conduct of a police officer, there are places to go to lodge a complaint. But he didn't do that."

I heard McNeilly say this on the radio yesterday:

Chief McNeilly said he was speaking out not because he was sore about his wife's demotion, but because the mayor put him in a bad position by not confronting rumors of the incident when they began swirling after the distribution of an anonymous fax in October. Chief McNeilly said reporters contacted him months ago about the incident, and he told them it was "urban legend."

"If he had been forthright with the media then, nobody would have come to me about it, and I wouldn't have looked like I didn't know what was going on," the chief said.
He said on the radio that when he was questioned about the handcuffing incident, he gave the mayor "benefit of the doubt." See? This is what happens when an elected official misleads the public. Everyone under that official is then forced (either knowingly or not) to also mislead the public.

This city deserves much much better.

January 19, 2007

Transcript of Rick Earle's Piece This Evening

Here's the link again. I tried to get this done earlier this evening so that Maria could include it here, but my computer burped and it was lost.

Sorry, Maria - my bad.

Here's the transcript.

Rick Earle: This week the mayor's office called me and asked me to consider not running an interview I did with the mayor last October. At that time I was looking into allegations that the Mayor was involved in some sort of altercation with Pittsburgh Police.

Now I had some conflicting dates and information so at that point we decided to go straight to the mayor.

[cut to outside city county building]

Earle: I have some information and witnesses, sources saying that at a uh sporting event uh over the summer that you allegedly pushed a Pittsburgh police officer?

Is that not true?

Ravenstahl: That's not true.

Earle: Ok, you didn't - you weren't involved in an altercation with the police officer?
Ravenstahl: Absolute--

Earle: You categorically deny that.

Ravenstahl: Absolutely.

Earle: You were never arrested, you were never handcuffed, you were never taken to, uh, before Lt Mike Scott during Heinz - at Heinz Field during a Steeler game?

Ravenstahl: Absolutely never been arrested.

[Voiceover]

Earle [voiceover] That's what the mayor told me outside the City County Buidling last October. But yesterday, three months after my interview, the mayor admitted to Target-11 that he was indeed handcuffed and detained by a Pittburgh Police officer outside Heinz Field in October 2005 while he was a city councilman.

Thursday, the mayor told Target-11's Karen Welles that my interview with him referred to allegations about last summer and that's why he never brought up the incident from October of 2005.

[Welles interview]

Karen Welles: The way he was questioning you, did it ever occur to you to fess up and say that well I had a problem in Heinz Field?

Ravenstahl: Certainly the way that he questioned me, and all investigative reporters question, it was a blanket and included in that was a variety of different questions. I didn't want to lend credence to a nameless person, to someone that wouldn't identify themself (sic).

[Voice over]

Earle: During our investigation, Target11 talked to several police officers about the incident. Pittsburgh police Lt Mike Scott wouldn't talk on camera, but last fall he told me over the phone that it was basically a misunderstanding. He said Ravenstahl had been pushed from behind into the officer.

But another witness, a police officer on the detail that night, told me "I remember this guy started screaming at the ticket takers to tell them to hurry up. I told him to relax. He turned and started screaming at all of us. He singled out Mark Hoehn and they were going at it.

That's when I took a step to the left and Mark grabbed him and pulled him over the barricade."

Ravenstahl, meanwhile, maintains that the officer Mark Hoehn was the aggressor, charging into the crowd to stop the rush of people into the stadium.

Ravenstahl says he confronted the officer because he was upset by the way he handled the situation.

Ravenstahl admitted that he yelled at the officer, but he never touched him.

Ravenstahl: Had I to do it over again, I certainly would have done what I could to protect those indivuduals.
Didja catch the part where he answered the question:
You were never arrested, you were never handcuffed, you were never taken to, uh, before Lt Mike Scott during Heinz - at Heinz Field during a Steeler game?
with:
Absolutely never been arrested.
This is what's known in the biz as a "lie by ommission." He left out some important stuff in order to present an incorrect picture of reality. And for him to try to weasel out of it by saying that the question he was responding to was about the previous summer (and not the previous fall) is just insulting.

He just keeps digging himself deeper and deeper.

Liar, Liar, Luke's on Fire

WPXI aired video on the 6:00 PM newscast from back in October of 2006.

It showed the reporter asking Mayor Luke Ravenstahl about the police incident.

You can view the video here (Click on the link labeled "Target 11 First Confronts Ravenstahl About Incident").

The reporter repeatedly asked Ravenstahl "Were you arrested?" "Were you cuffed?" "Were you taken before Mike Scott?" etc.

Ravenstahl kept repeating that he was not "arrested" or tried to weasel out of answering by asking the reporter where he got his information from.

But to be clear: Ravenstahl was asked if he was ever cuffed and he did not answer with anything like the truth: "YES."

It should also be noted that KDKA Radio's Marty Griffin admitted on his show this morning that he not only had previously asked Ravenstahl if he was "arrested" but also if there was an "incident" and that the Mayor had denied that anything had happened -- again, a lie.

It was not as Fred Honsberger claimed that Luke had only been asked if he was "arrested."

So, if anyone wants to know why the MSM did not report on this story before, it was because the police couldn't talk and Ravenstahl repeatedly lied and said nothing had happened. (And stop blaming McIntire for the timing -- you could have given your side of the story back on October we all now see.)

Too bad so many take this Mayor at his word. I believe that it is safe to say now that that is something that you just cannot do.

Mayor Ravenstahl, your credibility just went up in smoke.

1 Political Junkie on KDKA Radio Today

I'll be a guest on Fred Honsberger's show (1:00 to 5:00 PM) this afternoon on KDKA Radio.

I'll be on sometime around 1:30 or 2:00.

The subject will be the influence and power of the blogosphere.

The subject of Mayor Luke may also come up.

KDKA Radio: 1020 AM or listen live online here.

Tune in!



Ravenstahl Coverage (All Luke, All The Time)

There doesn't seem to be anything new in the newspaper coverage.

Rich Lord at the P-G gets the main points, except he misspells John McIntire's name (as of this morning).
Yesterday, John McIntyre, a commentator and former talk show host at KDKA radio wrote in his Web blog that the mayor "got belligerent and pushed the cop."
Well that's close to, but not exactly what Johnny Mac wrote, isn't it? Here's the paragraph in question:

THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF OPIEGATE

Word on the street: Opie was rowdy. Somebody called security. A cop tried to reign Opie in. Opie got belligerent and pushed the cop. Opie allegedly begged for forgiveness once they slapped the cuffs on him.

Just a little different, doncha think?

Jeremy Boren over at The Trib gets the name right:
Ravenstahl, 26, of Summer Hill, broke his silence after an account of the incident appeared on a blog maintained by former KDKA Radio talk show host John McIntire, a frequent critic of Ravenstahl.
But let's take a look at the facts. The P-G:

On Oct. 31, 2005, the mayor said, he was near the front of an unruly throng outside Heinz Field shortly before a Steelers night game. He was then a 25-year-old city councilman.

He said that he had consumed "some alcoholic beverages" with friends and family before entering the line but was not drunk.

With game time approaching, the crowd surged.

"Myself and other individuals in the front were really not even in control of ourselves," he said. "We couldn't control ourselves because of the force from behind."

Then Officer Hoehn, the mayor said, "went charging into the crowd, a crowd that included men, women and children, at which time he was very aggressive and authoritative."

"At which time I, verbally, expressed my objections to the manner in which he was treating the crowd at Heinz Field that evening," Mr. Ravenstahl said.

He said he did not know of any injuries in the crowd.

Officer Hoehn then retreated from the "uncontrollable" crowd, the mayor said.

"I told him who I was, and I told him I didn't appreciate the way he was treating the fans, and I didn't appreciate the manner in which he represented the city of Pittsburgh," he said. "He expressed back to me that he didn't care for my opinion and didn't care what I had to say. But I didn't back down."

The mayor said he used language that he shouldn't have, but "at no time did I physically contact the officer."

Officer Hoehn then handcuffed him and took him into Heinz Field. He sat, handcuffed and alone, for 10 or 15 minutes, he said. He was then taken into a security office.

First things first. Mayor Luke characterizes it as "verbally expressed my objections" but that can mean many different things. Anyone can say what they want, but to do it in a manner that a Pittsburgh Police Officer sees fit to handcuff that person - that most've been some "verbal expression."

Here's the story at The Trib:

Ravenstahl said he was in a large line of people outside Heinz Field when the crowd surged forward.

"Myself and everybody else that was in the front of the line at that point simply had no control over our bodies or anything. We were being pushed, and it was a very dangerous situation," Ravenstahl said.

The mayor said police Officer Mark A. Hoehn "charged into the crowd" to restore order. Ravenstahl said Hoehn was "out of control."

Ravenstahl said he identified himself as a city councilman and complained to the officer about being heavy-handed.

"It was making a bad situation much, much worse," Ravenstahl said. "I stood up for what I believed in and once again began to tell him that he was wrong and acting inappropriately."

Hoehn then handcuffed Ravenstahl. Hoehn conferred with Sgt. John Fisher, who was in the stadium, and the two decided to let Ravenstahl go after apologies were exchanged, the mayor said.


There's something about this that just doesn't fit. Mayor Luke's at the front of a large crowd that's "surging" towards Heinz Field and the surging is cause by the front of the crowd being pushed from the back of the crowd. Luke says the crowd didn't have any "control over our bodies" (a dangerous situation for someone who's had a few - but I digress). It was a dangerous situation, he said. So here's the tricky part of Luke's story. There's a surging crowd, it's dangerous and what happens?

A lone police officer "charge[s] into the crowd"? Is this regular police procedure? My buddy Ol' Froth has a take on this:
Faced with an unruly crowd, if law enforcement personell feel that someone might become a crowd instigator, the tactic is to remove the potential mob leader. Now I'm not suggesting that Mayor Opie was leading a mob, but if he was possibly bellicose on behalf of an unruly crowd that police were trying to get a handle on, it would make sense to hustle him out of there, and then release him once the situation calmed. If its a brief detention (and 10-15 minutes is fairly brief) there might not be any reason to file any charges.

Ah, that makes some sense. Certainly makes more sense than Luke's story of one police officer trying to stop a crowd of surging Steeler fans.

This part, of course, get's the award for unintentional irony:

"I would welcome [Officer Hoehn] to tell his side of the story, to be honest with you," the mayor said. He added that bureau policy generally bars statements by rank-and-file officers to the news media, and he would not personally order Officer Hoehn to break that policy.
So Mayor Luke would welcome Hoehn telling his side of the story knowing he's barred from doing so. And knowing he's barred from doing so, won't order him to tell his side of the story.

Ah, transparency in government, Pittsburgh style!

Of course, since it makes Luke look like a drunken frat boy, he charges that it's all "politically motivated" and that Bill Peduto is behind it all.

Yea, right.

Bill Peduto wasn't the one who had a few drinks and got rowdy enough to get hauled away in handcuffs by Pittsburgh Police. Bill Peduto isn't the one who denied all the allegations "months ago" to cover his own butt.

But of course, because he's been on McIntire's show a few times, Bill Peduto's behind it.

It makes about as much sense as a lone police officer charging into a surging, drunken crowd at Heinz Field to keep it from surging anymore.

An Interesting Detail

There's an interesting detail over at The People's Republic. I'll quote the Admiral in full:

If you read the last line of the Tribune-Review article concerning Interim Mayor Luke "Handcuffs" Ravenstahl's admissions concerning his 2005 arrest by city police, you will see that he is also admitting to something else. As the article, written by the Trib's Jeremy Boren, states:

The mayor said he was asked months ago about the incident and Regan’s alleged involvement. He said he denied the accusations then because he didn’t want to “lend credence to them.”

So in other words, he was asked about the incident, and his response was to lie about the whole thing and claim that it never even happened. [emphasis in original]

Here's Boren's article.

January 18, 2007

Meanwhile, Back in America

I don't want to deflect from any of the reporting on Mayor Luke's handcuffing, but via TPMCafe, I found this Fox "News" poll. Here's how it's described at TPMCafe:

This has to be a milestone: A new poll has found that the American people dislike President Bush more than they dislike ... Dick Cheney. The poll — by Fox News, of all people — finds that President Bush's unfavorable rating is 58%, while Cheney's unpopularity rating is five points lower at 53%. Bush can, however, still take some small solace from the fact that his approval rating is one point higher than Cheney's; the President's is 38%, while the VP's is 37%.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of other numbers that are striking for a Fox poll: Only 39% of Americans view the GOP favorably, and 49% view them unfavorably. Meanwhile, a majority of respondents — 51% — have a favorable view of Dems, compared to only 35% who have an unfavorable view of what Fox likes to call the "Democrat Party."

One more detail. Dubya has a 35% approval rating which is only 2 points above his LOWEST Fox "News" rating - from April 2006.

Ravenstahl "Policegate" Story Breaks in MSM

As David blogged here, John McIntire was the first to break a long-standing rumor that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl had had a run-in with the police at Heinz Field that normally would have resulted in an arrest. McIntire printed the story on his blog, MacYapper, yesterday and all hell is breaking loose today.

Let me first say that I had heard this rumor prior to seeing it at MacYapper and had heard that at least one local TV station was working on the story. However, having heard it only from one source (and not a direct one at that) and having no other backup on it, I was not prepared to post anything until I had more on it.

That is not meant to be any dig at John. I am quite certain that he has more sources and resources than me (and hasn't been confined to a sick bed for the past two months) and felt more confident in publishing the story.

Now that we've taken care of the blogger ethics part...

The Post-Gazette has already published Luke's account here.

Both KDKA and WTAE will cover today.

According to McIntire, John himself was interviewed by Bob Mayo for the WTAE piece.

Oddly enough, before Mac broke this, I had heard it was WPXI who was working on breaking the story. Will they cover it tonight?

Will it have legs?

Stay tuned!

Escalation

MoveOn.org has a great ad against St. McCain's escalation plan for Iraq:


As McCain can't really argue with the content of the ad, the "Straight Shooter" has decided to lie about MoveOn instead -- a typical Rethuglican strategy coming from a supposed "maverick."

I can't get Photoshop to open!

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

This is definitely a conspiracy!

More on Domestic Surveillance/FISA

Yesterday, I posted this about dubya's plan to hand over oversight of his domestic surveillance program to the FISA court.

On the surface, it looked like good news, but there were some that were skeptical.

Turns out there might be reason to be. Check this out from the NYTimes.

The administration said it had briefed the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees in closed sessions on its decision.

But Representative Heather A. Wilson, Republican of New Mexico, who serves on the Intelligence committee, disputed that, and some Congressional aides said staff members were briefed Friday without lawmakers present.

Ms. Wilson, who has scrutinized the program for the last year, said she believed the new approach relied on a blanket, “programmatic” approval of the president’s surveillance program, rather than approval of individual warrants.

Administration officials “have convinced a single judge in a secret session, in a nonadversarial session, to issue a court order to cover the president’s terrorism surveillance program,” Ms. Wilson said in a telephone interview. She said Congress needed to investigate further to determine how the program is run.

Which lead Josh Marshall over at talkingpointsmemo to ask:
Is it all a sleight of hand?
With this administration, I wouldn't put it past them.

McIntire's Got Him Some Balls

Check out what Johnny Mac posted yesterday. For those who don't yet know, to John McIntire calls Mayor Luke Ravenstahl "Mayor Opie."
Here it is folks, the unofficial speculative version of what REALLY went down with Mayor Opie and a police officer. It wasn't, as has been rumored, the All Star Game at which the now legendary incident of Opie pushing a cop occurred. It was the 2005 Halloween Monday Night Steelers Game at Heinz Field.

Word on the street: Opie was rowdy. Somebody called security. A cop tried to reign Opie in. Opie got belligerent and pushed the cop. Opie allegedly begged for forgiveness once they slapped the cuffs on him.

THAT'S RIGHT, THEY SLAPPED THE CUFFS ON HIM.

Then what happened? Even though Bobby O wasn't yet Mayor, he was virtually the Mayor because he'd already won the Democratic primary. Somebody, either Opie or someone on Opie's behalf, called either O'Connor or Regan and told them of Opie's impending dilemma. Cause dude, you can't push a cop and not get charged for it. Unless you're the a City Councilman with connections.

So according to this version, which some news outlet, broadcast or print (they're all dying to break it first)will break soon, Dennie Regan put the fix in to make Opie shoving the cop thing go away.

And then there's this:
It's MacYapper's understanding that at least one of the four officers involved at Heinz Field has talked to at least one mainstream news outlet reporter.
I'm waiting to see how this plays out in the local media. If McIntire's heard the word on the street right, this is gonna be HUGE.

Waiting, waiting...

January 17, 2007

NSA Domestic Surveillance and the FISA Court

The New York Times as the story.

The Bush administration, in what appears to be a concession to its critics, said today it will allow an independent court to monitor its warrantless electronic-eavesdropping program.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to supervise anti-terrorism wiretapping within the United States, will supervise the eavesdropping operations from now on.

So the Domestic Surveillance program CAN function under the FISA statutes! Just what we always thought!

E. Christopher Murray, a civil liberties lawyer in the Garden City, L.I., firm of Reisman, Peirez and Reisman, said Mr. Gonzales’s letter embodied “a significant departure from the administration’s prior position, although in reality all the administration is agreeing to do is what is already required of them by law.”

Representative Silvestre Reyes, the Texas Democrat who has just assumed the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee, called today’s developments “welcome news, if long overdue.”

“It proves that this surveillance has always been possible under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and that there was never a good reason to evade the law,” he said. “This announcement does not end our committee’s interest in this
matter.

“I also recognize that the effort to bring this program under F.I.S.A. required a great deal of work by the attorney general and his team,” Mr. Reyes said, “and I am hopeful that the decision to comply with F.I.S.A. will demonstrate a renewed commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law.”

If this is as it seems (and no one should ever trust dubya on National Security or Civil Liberties. Ever.) it looks as if the administration has finally decided to follow the law. However, I'm not holding my breath.

There's this at the Salon.com.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy just issued a statement in which he says he welcomes Bush's decision to "seek approval for all wiretaps from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as the law has required for years." "The issue has never been whether to monitor suspected terrorists but doing it legally and with proper checks and balances to prevent abuses," Leahy says in the statement. "Providing efficient but meaningful court review is a major step toward addressing those concerns."

Sen. Chuck Schumer takes a significantly different tone in a statement of his own, saying that Bush's decision "flies in the face of the fundamentals of American justice, which, when the balance of power is divided, require that these things should be done with full debate, and with full review." Schumer says the Gonzales announcement "can give little solace to the American people, who believe in the rule of law and ask for adequate judicial review. And why it took five years to go to even this secret court is beyond comprehension."

Glenn Greenwald has more. Greenwald is skeptical:

But ultimately, there are only two options -- (1) the administration is now complying fully and exclusively with FISA when eavesdropping, in which case all of its prior claims that it could not do so and still fight against The Terrorists are false, or (2) the administration has changed its eavesdropping program some, but it is still not fully complying with FISA, in which case nothing of significance has changed (at least on the lawbreaking issues) because the administration is still violating the law.

The FISA court and the administration cannot reach an agreement for proceeding that deviates from the FISA law itself. So it is only one or the other of the two options, neither of which reflect well on the administration.

Having said that, I have to say that I find the celebratory tone that I have seen here and there to be quite odd and unwarranted. There is nothing to celebrate here. We shouldn't be grateful when the administration agrees to abide by the law. That is expected and required, not something that occurs when the King deigns that it should and we then celebrate that he has agreed to comply with the laws we have enacted. Moreover, the administration has been violating the criminal law -- i.e., committing felonies -- for the past five years in how they have been eavesdropping on us.

And he makes some good points here:
There is no repentance here, nor (more importantly) is there any rescission of their claimed powers of lawbreaking. Quite the contrary. Gonazles' letter affirms, as one would expect, their belief that they were legally entitled to violate this law. That means (a) that they can violate it again at any future point when they want to, (b) they can violate other laws under the same theories, and (c) whatever other lawbreaking is already occurring as a result of those theories is not going to stop.

This "reversal" merely proves what we already knew -- that there was never any legitimate reason to violate FISA in the first place, and that all of the claims about how they had to in order to stop The Terrorists were complete fiction (claims which, just incidentally, they tried to use to win the last election; if you wanted to make them comply with FISA, it meant that you loved the Terrorists).
As I said, with this gang in the White House, I'm not taking anything for granted.