We are the 99%

February 28, 2007

Candidate Forum Tonight! (+ the back-story)

A reminder that five local grassroots organizations are hosting a candidate's forum tonight:

2007 Candidates Forum
Wednesday, Febuary 28th
6:30 pm at the Union Project (801 N Negley Ave)

Sponsored by:
Democracy for Pittsburgh
The League of Young Voters
The Getrude Stein Club
The Steel-City Stonewall Democrats
Progress Pittsburgh
Americans for Demoractic Action

Meet & Greet starts at 6:30. All candidates for the following offices were invited:
Pittsburgh Mayor
Pittsburgh City Council
Allegheny County Council
County Executive
Court of the Common Pleas
School Board
Sheriff
City Controller
Treasurer

Candidates will be on hand to talk with you about their qualifications.

The forum features 3 important races:
City Council District 7 - Bloomfield, Highland Park, East Liberty
City Council District 9 - East Hills, Homewood, Point Breeze
City of Pittsburgh Controller - citywide & impacts the whole region

Schedule:
6:30 - Meet & Greet
7:00 - Special Guest Mayoral Candidate Bill Peduto
7:05 - City Council District 7
7:45 - City Council District 9
9:00 - City Controller


The Back-story

You may have noticed that while mayoral candidates Ravenstahl and Peduto were both invited to speak, only Mayoral Candidate Bill Peduto is appearing, and that he's listed as a "Special Guest."

Let me state for the record that I am on the organizing Committee of one of the groups sponsoring this debate: Democracy for Pittsburgh (DfP). That said, this post is on my personal blog and any opinions expressed here do not represent the views of DfP unless otherwise specified. It should also be noted that due to my continuing illness, I have not been able to participate in the planning of this event since October.

As KDKA TV reported last week, Mayor Ravenstahl was invited to participate in this forum, but ultimately declined due to "multiple conflicts on that particular evening."

The article (and televised report) also featured Nish Suvarnakar of the League of Young Voters stating, "We told him that if the time wasn't going to work, we would change the day,”

Actually, the negotiations with Ravenstahl were lengthy (starting in January) and included offers to change the time and date. Ravenstahl seemed to agree to come only if he could speak, by himself, first, then Peduto. The Ravenstahl Camp only confirmed that Luke wouldn't attend a scant 10 days or so before the event.

According to KDKA:
KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano spoke to the mayor’s campaign manager who said the mayor had multiple conflicts on that particular evening, but they said they will be willing to reschedule at some mutually convenient time in front of these same organizations.
Well, isn't that special?

There's only one, or two, or twenty problems with that:
  • These five groups had already spent over $500.00 on the event (hall rental, etc.)

  • Most of these groups operate on a shoestring budget (DfP, for example, collects no dues from its members).

  • The forum includes many other candidates for many other offices and they have all had the event long inked in on their schedules.

  • There is no money left for another event.

  • There will be no other forum run by these groups.
  • Nice of him to agree to a rescheduled event that he knows won't happen...

    Now, I understand that the Mayor of Pittsburgh is a busy man. Like he said, he has many other places to go that night.

    For example, it looks like he will be making it to the River Club this evening for a "fantastic evening of networking" with the Pittsburgh Young Professionals.

    Guess it's better than "slumming" it out to East Liberty to meet with a bunch of scraggly grassroots progressives and the neighbors and guests who show up.

    Oh, and by the way, even though our Interim Mayor stated to Marty Griffin on KDKA Radio last week that he's ready to debate Peduto anytime, anywhere, he's still failed to agree formally to any televised debate.

    Geez, The Admiral is Fast.

    Rich Lord's piece on the $200 grand settlement:
    The federal lawsuit was filed by Deven W. Werling of Largo, Fla., who said he was roughed up by Sgt. Mark A. Eggleton at the Original Hot Dog Shop in Oakland in 2004. The city's Office of Municipal Investigations found that Sgt. Eggleton contradicted himself under oath, and he was fired.

    Presumably the P-G posted it on the web sometime around midnight. According to the time stamp on his blog, The Admiral had this posted about an hour later.

    His initial posting on the event in question is here.

    There is one paragraph of Lord's piece that screams out to be reprinted here. Here's the set up. There was a fight at the Original Hot Dog stand in late August, 2004. Werling and a couple of friends were there but not involved in the fight. Two officers, being paid "under the table" were doing security work for the O cleared the area with a lot of pepper spray. Werling made some comments that got back to Sgt Eggleton. He approached Mr Werling (after the fight had been cleared) and the two had a few words. Eggleton ordered Werling to leave the O and Werling refused. And (according to The Admiral) this happened:

    Sgt. Eggleton swept the food off of Mr. Werling's table, and then, according to an expert witness who worked on the case, "… pulled him out of his seat, threw him against a window, thrust a baton across his throat until he almost passed out, threw him against a cooler, and punched him in the mid-section".
    This lead to an arrest outside etc etc etc. The City found that Eggleton had lied under oath and fired him. Rich Lord:
    In October, the dismissal was reduced to a five-day suspension by then-Operations Director Dennis Regan. Mr. Eggleton continues to work as a sergeant.
    Dennis Regan. And so Sgt Eggleton, after working under the table (and thus paying no taxes on that money), assaults someone who wasn't committing a crime, and lies about it in a court of law (Lord wrote "contradicted himself under oath"), and gets fired for it, he's the guy who gets reinstated by the same guy who was pulling strings to get his girlfriend's brother a promotion.

    So Regan's at the heart of the McNeilly case (with a possible settlement costing the city something around $85,000) and he's at least attached to this case (with a possible settlement costing the city $200,000). Looks like Mayor Luke's abortive choice of Public Safety Director is going to cost The City of Pittsburgh somewhere around $300,000.

    Can someone please ask Mayor Luke to confirm that Dennis Regan's sweaty paws are no where near his campaign - now that he's been exhiled from City Hall?

    February 27, 2007

    Keith Olbermann Takes Secretary Rice to School

    I was out watching John ("Mayor Opie is an an old-school pol wannabe") McIntire and and Gab ("Justin Timberlake is the new Sinatra") Bonesso try out some comedy on the Eastside so I missed Keith Olbermann's special commentary last night.

    If you missed the it (the commentary, not the comedy - thought the comedy was good), here are a few highlights. He begins the history lesson by quoting a error filled historical analogy by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (PhD in Political Science):

    If Congress were now to revise the Iraq authorization, she said, out loud, with an adult present: "… it would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change, then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."

    His analysis starts on one end:

    Invoking the German dictator who subjugated Europe; who tried to exterminate the Jews; who sought to overtake the world is not just in the poorest of taste, but in its hyperbole, it insults not merely the victims of the Third Reich, but those in this country who fought it and defeated it.

    Saddam Hussein was not Adolf Hitler. And George W. Bush is not Franklin D. Roosevelt — nor Dwight D. Eisenhower. He isn't even George H.W. Bush, who fought in that war.

    And goes through to the other. He pointed out that the US declared war on Germany after the Nazis "piled on" after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Read about it here. Olbermann points out the obvious differences between her time at Foggy Bottom and the State Department just before WWII:

    Your predecessors, Dr. Rice, didn't spend a year making up phony evidence and mistaking German balloon-inflating trucks for mobile germ warfare labs. They didn't pretend the world was ending because a tin-pot tyrant couldn't hand over the chemical weapons it turned out he'd destroyed a decade earlier. The Germans walked up to the front door of our State Department and said, "We're at war." It was in all the papers. And when that war ended, more than three horrible years later, our troops and the Russians were in Berlin. And we stayed, as an occupying force, well into the 1950s. As an occupying force, Madam Secretary!

    There are a few loose ends. After pointing out the current secretary's previous errors, he continues on the "going back to Congress" error:
    ...that it would be as ridiculous in the secretary's eyes as saying that after Hitler was defeated, we needed to go back to Congress to "deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."

    Oh, good grief, Secretary Rice, that's exactly what we did do! We went back to Congress to deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after Hitler was overthrown! It was called the Marshall Plan.

    Marshall!

    Gen. George Catlett Marshall!

    Secretary of state!

    The job you have now!
    And thus endeth the lesson.

    Though Professor Olbermann (obviously) couldn't resist adding a few things - a coda, if you will, to his lesson sonata. It was hinted at earlier in the piece when he pointed out that the real appeasers in the US before WWII were from the GOP. Turns out that that it was the same party that resisted the Marshall Plan after the war.

    Doesn't anyone in the Bush Administration have a brain? Or have they just stopped trying to lie intelligently?

    Jack Kelly Update!

    Hey ONE DAY AFTER I posted this, mediamatters.org posted this. Here's the headline:
    Jack Kelly column repeats "slow bleed" rhetoric, results of dismissed poll
    And there's everything in there that I wrote; the origins of the phrase "slow bleed" the Republican trumpeting of the phrase, and Kelly's use of the "poll" that's been shown to be slanted in favor of the Republic Party.

    Gee, do you think the folks at mediamatters reads this blog?

    Maybe I should send them a resume or something.

    February 26, 2007

    Rich Lord on a Budget Problem

    In today's P-G, Rich Lord has an article on one of the issues facing the city budget: the city's "Paynent in Lieu of Taxes" policy.

    Figuring out how to pay for basic services while tax-exempt organizations control large blocks of land is a problem for cities nationwide.

    Pittsburgh's solution has been to go hat-in-hand, asking nonprofit institutions to give the city whatever they can.

    He then goes on to compare and contrast our city's policy with some other well known cities (New Haven, Cleveland, Philadelphia). The verdict?
    That's a "unique" approach to a national problem, said Evelyn Brody, a professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law and author of the book "Property-Tax Exemption for Charities: Mapping the Battlefield." Pittsburgh is "relying on something voluntary," she said, when most cities "are looking for something more certain."
    There was a deal in place between the city and a consortium called the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund. According to Lord, the group is made up of a little more than one hundred non-profits and had promised to make $13.25 million in donations to the city over three years.

    Ending in 2007. And that's a problem.

    But it's not the first time we've seen it.

    Back in November, 2005 we saw a preliminary discussion of the city budget played out in the papers. And the gap between what the city could expect from the consortium was spelled out:
    A consortium of nonprofit groups has said it doesn't plan to give the city money after 2007, but the city's plan counts on $5.7 million a year from such organizations through 2011.
    Again, Rich Lord on the city budget beat.

    To be clear, Lord's article isn't necessarily about the budget (and as proof, he doesn't reuse Councilman Peduto's oft-used phrase "phantom revenue"). It's more about how other cities have other solutions to the same problem. He does get some info from Peduto:

    City Councilman William Peduto, a Democratic mayoral challenger, said the Connecticut model would be ideal, with the state paying a portion of the revenue cities lose to tax exemptions.

    Barring state action, Mr. Peduto would like to see "a 20- to 40-year plan that focuses only on hospitals, universities and insurers." He would have them make payments based on the size of their payroll, just as for-profit businesses do.

    Whatever the solution, it needs to be done right.

    One Mo' Time

    The Pennsylvania Progressive has repeatedly requested that we add them to our blogroll and they are worth a look.

    They are located in SE PA rather than SW, so I'm adding them to the main Links list. They do, however cover the state, as well as national politics.

    One day, I will create that non-Pittsburgh PA list like I keep meaning to...

    February 25, 2007

    It's Sunday, So Jack Kelly's Spinning

    Here's the column.

    By my count there are three times (including the sub-title) Commando Kelly uses the phrase "slow bleed" to characterize the Democrat's strategy. Here's an example:
    So the Democrats may adopt what's been called the "slow bleed" strategy.
    While other members of the so-called liberal media have actively attributed the phrase to the Democrats, Kelly does not. Though carefully he doesn't actually say where the term comes from. It started here in an article at politico.com.
    Top House Democrats, working in concert with anti-war groups, have decided against using congressional power to force a quick end to U.S. involvement in Iraq, and instead will pursue a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options.

    The writer of that article, John Bresnahan, wrote in a subsequent article at the politico:

    The Democratic plan was characterized in The Politico as the “slow-bleed strategy,” which was not a term used by any Democrats or the anti-war groups supporting their efforts.

    The RNC, however, attributed the phrase to Democrats, and it was used in their e-mail alert.

    And thus according to mediamatters.org, it then found its way onto GOP.com:

    [The Democrats] call it their 'slow-bleed' plan.
    Say it ain't so! The GOP lying about something the Democrats (in this case did not) do?

    Needless to say, the phrase "slow bleed" is in itself contentious. Especially when discussing soldiers and marines on the battlefield. Especially when it's been pumped up by the GOP (something, again Commando Kelly neglected to metion) The inclusion of the phrase is meant to spark disgust - and that's Kelly's point.

    Nice rhetoric, Jack.

    Then there's this:
    Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Va. surveyed 800 registered voters Feb. 5-7. By identical margins of 57-41 percent, those polled said Iraq was a key part of the war on terror and that U.S. troops should remain until "the job is done." By 56-43 percent, respondents said Americans should stand behind the president in Iraq because we are at war, and by 53-46 percent they said Democrats were going too far, too fast in pressing the president to withdraw troops.
    Luckily, we've already blogged on this "poll." Another pollster (a Republican, by the way) has gone on record saying that the questions in that poll were designed to elicit a specific response. In this case, "support dubya's war."

    In any case, Public Opinion Strategies is hardly neutral. Take a look at what this polling company released the day after the GOP took a thumping in November. A good indication is the headline:
    PUBLIC OPINION STRATEGIES MOURNS REPUBLICAN LOSSES, CONGRATULATES MANY INDIVIDUAL WINNERS IN TOUGH RACES
    Nice going, Jack. Another great column.

    Wikipedia Update

    Hey, gang! There's a paragraph in the Wikipedia regarding Mayor Ravenstahl and the Heinz Field Handcuffs!

    As of this morning (2/25/07) this is what it says:

    In January 2007, radio and television talk show host John McIntire wrote in his Pittsburgh politics blog MacYapper that on Halloween night 2005 at Heinz Field, then-City Councilman Ravenstahl shoved a Pittsburgh police officer and was led away in handcuffs but released shortly after. The blog speculated that Bob O'Connor, who was not yet mayor, played a role in keeping the incident quiet.

    The rumors spread to other Pittsburgh politics blogs and then to the mainstream media, forcing Ravenstahl to go public to dispel the rumors.[12]

    During a radio interview with KDKA, Ravenstahl responded to the allegations, saying that McIntire had lied to hurt him politically. McIntire responded by saying that the mayor's response further brought into question his maturity.[13]

    Robert McNeilly, Pittsburgh's police chief when the incident occurred, publicly questioned how the case was handled, saying that the behavior of both Ravenstahl and Pittsburgh Police Officer Mark Hoehn should have been scrutinized more closely. "Admits to drinking with several of his friends. Becomes argumentative with a police officer. Using vulgarity towards a police officer. Led away in handcuffs," McNeilly said. "How many 25-year-old young men who have been drinking, who were just vulgar with the police and shouting at the police, would be un-handcuffed and released?" McNeilly said that both word of an unusual situation like this not traveling up the chain of command, as well as the lack of documentation, are out of the ordinary.[14]

    We'll see how long it stays up in its current condition.

    Blogroll Update

    We've cleaned up our Local Political Blogroll -- adding some new blogs and getting rid of some dead weight.

    ADDED:
    The Pittsburgh Comet - Be sure to check out Bram's Civic Duty Event tonight at 9:00 PM at the Shadow Lounge (details).

    The Ideas Bucket - Agent Ska goes to all the political happenings in town so you don't have to (even though you really should).

    Delano's Den - Because he's Jon Delano, dammit!

    Metroblogging Pittsburgh - Only sometimes political, but oh-so-metro.

    The Ill-Tempered Ingenue - Not political, but how could we not with a name like that?

    DROPPED:
    Exit Stage Left -- Only because it no longer exits in cyberspace. I really wish it still did!

    Progress Pittsburgh Blog -- It was an old link to their old site. Their real site is still on our blogroll.

    FIXED:
    Fester's Place - We've fixed the link to point to Fester's new home -- sorry it took so long!

    February 24, 2007

    As way of explanation

    I felt the need to give an update on my condition because there have been those of you who have sent me events to publish which I haven't blogged on, and there have been important issues that I missed.

    I'm still sick. Unfortunately, staph infections can take months to heal.

    The good news is that I've made a lot of progress in the last three weeks or so. The bad news is that, while healing much faster now, I'm often either in pain or nodding off like a junkie -- neither of which is very conducive to blogging.

    The specialist that I'm seeing says that the wound should be healed in about five more weeks. I'm trying to start working now on regaining my strength so that I'll be ready to return to normal life as soon as possible.

    I want to thank my friends and family members who have helped to keep me out of rehab centers for the past couple of months by doing everything from taking out my trash to grocery shopping.

    Thanks, Janice, Joy and, Sue!
    (Also, thanks to all of you who have offered to help out.)

    Thanks too to David for keeping this blog going.

    Having a blogging partner gives one the luxury of being able to skip a day or two of blogging, but David has had to cover for both of us for weeks at a time and has kept this blog from becoming just a memory.

    Like I said, there's been many things that I would have liked to have commented on but couldn't, so here's a quick shout out to a few of those:
  • If you haven't already, I urge you to read The People's Republic of Pittsburgh's three part series on Police Secondary Employment (here, here, & here). It's long, but oh so worth it.

  • 2pj may have missed out on commenting on Brian O'Neil's sad little column championing mediocrity (Ravenstahl), but fortunately, the Admiral and Post-Gazette readers let loose on it.

  • I'm Spartacus too! A very tardy Spartacus, but one nonetheless.

  • Important Peduto Events:
    Saturday, February 24th - meet at HQ at 11am to join a team of volunteers to hit the streets and collect petition signatures.

    Sunday, March 4th - 10am-3pm Democratic Party Endorsement Day at the IBEW building on the South Side. They need volunteers to take a shift to serve refreshments and cheer on Bill.

    More events can be found at www.billpeduto.com

  • And, this Rob Rogers cartoon (more Rogers at http://www.post-gazette.com/robrogers/):



    And, lastly:

    You may have caught the KDKA story about a certain anti-contraception mayor's pull out at the last minute from a candidate's forum put together by five grassroots progressive groups. There's more to the story and I'll try to post on that later today, but don't miss the event itself:

    Progressive Candidates Forum
    Wednesday, Feb. 28th, 7pm-9pm
    (Meet'n'Greet 6pm-7pm)

    It's time for the primary election Progressive Candidates Forum.

    Candidates for City Controller, City Council Districts 9 (East Hills, Homewood, Point Breeze) and 7 (Bloomfield, Highland Park, East Liberty), and judicial candidates will be available beforehand as well, for an informal Meet & Greet.

    Brought to you by Democracy for Pittsburgh, The League of Young Voters, The Gertrude Stein Club, The Steel-City Stonewall Democrats, and Progress Pittsburgh

    Mayor Luke Ravenstahl declined the invitation to participate, so only mayoral candidate Bill Peduto will be present for that race to briefly address the gang as things get rolling. (The coalition of presenters agreed that it would be unfair to Peduto, who agreed to speak well in advance, to cancel the event entirely.)

    So come hobnob with the rest of Pittsburgh's young and progressive politically aware, and see what the voting polls will have to offer!

    Wednesday, Feb 28. - Union Station Atrium (801 N. Negley Ave)
    6:30pm-7:00pm, Meet and Greet
    7:00pm-9:00pm, Candidates Forum

    FREE!

    February 23, 2007

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! AAAAAH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

    I just read this.

    It's about Mayor Ravenstahl saying in private to some Allegheny County Democratic Committee (ACDC) members how he didn't think people should be using contraceptives. Then, denying that he'd ever had that conversation, then dodging whether or not he's against contraceptives and how committed he is to a right to privacy.

    lmxclsksk fkdk;,g ,gdkjkms ddflss nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

    I'm sorry, I think I temporarily went blind or blacked out or something.

    What year is this?

    This is coming from Pittsburgh's "hot, hip, young" mayor?

    And, let me make this clear, I don't give a flying fig what Luke thinks about contraceptives for his own family.

    I do care what this City's Mayor whispers about contraceptives to other public officials (ACDC members are elected by the public) in private when he's trying to get their votes. (The average age of ACDC members must be, like, 70 something and lives in a region which is heavily Catholic.)

    I especially care when this same person voted against the so called "Bubble Zone" Ordinance" -- without public comment -- while he was on City Council.

    I also care when a supporter of Luke's recently called up a progressive friend of mine claiming that Luke is the real progressive and that Bill Peduto is actually anti-choice. Let's just hope that the caller wasn't working from a script (you know, one for progressives and one for older ACDC members).

    Let's also hope that this Luke supporter, who is a gay man, also stops to think for a moment that if Ravenstahl adheres so rigidly to Catholic doctrine on contraceptives (which let's face it, most American Catholics don't), that he might also believe Catholic doctrine regarding gays. I hope he promises to at least abstain from all gay sex sex with other men (and any contraceptive use) until he checks it out with Luke. Otherwise, he might want to consider switching his alliance away from someone who, well happy to have his vote, may very well consider him to be a sinner.

    But more importantly, someone who has no problem putting his own religious doctrines first when it comes to making public policy for everyone.

    Senate Democrats are Playing Hardball

    From the AP:

    Four years ago, Congress passed legislation authorizing President Bush' to go to war in Iraq. Now Senate Democrats want to take it back.

    Key lawmakers, backed by party leaders, are drafting legislation that would effectively revoke the broad authority granted to the president in the days Saddam Hussein was in power, and leave U.S. troops with a limited mission as they prepare to withdraw.

    The Senate giveth and the Senate taketh away. It's in the Constitution.

    Here's the text of the AUMF of 2002.

    There's one part that's stuck in my head for the last, oh three years or so. Section 3(b)(2). It says that the President "shall...make available to the [congressional leadership] his determination that":
    acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorist and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
    Now I'm no lawyer, but it looks like dubya has had to show how his actions are "consistent" with the so-called "war on terror" But since we now know that Iraq never had anything to do with 9/11, and now that the Iraqi regime is gone, shouldn't that mean an end to dubya's authority to send more troops into a civil war (even if that civil war was triggered by his own ineptness)?

    I'm just asking...

    February 22, 2007

    Mayor Luke and the Question of Contraception

    I was lucky enough to attend the 14th ward Democratic Committee meeting this evening. It was described at the committees's website as:
    14th Ward Democratic Committee Candidate Night at the Sixth Presbyterian Church, corner of Forbes and Murray. Candidate night for Mayor, City Controller, School Board, City Council, and non-judicial County Offices. Doors will open at 6:30. Only candidates that have submitted "Letters of Intent To Seek the Endorsement" will be provided the opportunity to address the committee at this meeting. Candidates will be scheduled to speak at specific time.
    And I was disappointed to hear the moderator say that only members of the committee would be allowed to ask questions. Bummer - I had a great one planned out for Mayor Luke.

    In any event after the mayor spoke, the floor was opened for questions. A woman in the second row (or was it third?) asked our young mayor a rather probing question. She began by saying that she'd heard that Mayor Luke had mentioned in private to some committee members that he didn't think people should be using contraceptives. The woman then basically asked whether that was true and if not, for him to ease her concerns about his committment to privacy - considering he'd voted against the Peduto/Shields "bubble zone" ordinance.

    Over the murmurs of the crowd ("What does that have to do with anything?" was one murmur I heard), Mayor Luke began a very interesting answer. First off, he denied ever having had a conversation about contraception with any committee member. Then he went on to say that while he DID vote against he ordinance, it's now the law and he's going to uphold the law.

    Notice what's missing? Whether he thinks people should be using contraception (and it's only a short jump from there to whether women should have access to abortion services).

    It may have been an oversight on his part. It may have been a dodge. And while the question may have come from left field, since it was asked, don't you think the people of Pittsburgh deserve a clear answer to the question?

    We certainly didn't get it tonight.

    Before This Poll Gets Any More Legs

    Rupert Murdoch owns The New York Post. And Rupert Murdoch owns The Fox "News" Channel.

    When asked about whether the "news" channel had managed to shape the agenda in the lead up to the Iraq war, Rupert Murdoch, said "No I don't think so. We tried." [emphasis added]

    So we should not be surprised when the Murdoch owned New York Post publishes a front page story about a new poll showing a new found support for dubya's war. The headline even reads:

    AMERICA SAYS LET'S WIN WAR

    The story outlines a new poll by Public Opinion Strategies, a polling company that describes itself in this press release as a "Republican Polling Firm." The poll itself was commissioned by a PR firm in Chattanooga, TN called "The Moriah Group. Here is their press release about the poll.

    There's something fishy going on here. Take a look at the first two paragraphs of the Moriah press release:

    In the wake of the U.S. House of Representatives passing a resolution that amounts to a vote of no confidence in the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq, a new national survey by Alexandria, VA-based Public Opinion Strategies (POS) shows the American people may have some different ideas from their elected leaders on this issue.

    The survey was conducted nationwide February 5-7 among a bi-partisan, cross-section of 800 registered voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. The survey was commissioned by The Moriah Group, a Chattanooga-based strategic communications and public affairs firm.

    It says the poll was conducted from the 5th to the 7th of February. But the House Resolution was passed on the 16th of February a little more than a week later. How can that be "in the wake of"? How long does it take to crunch the numbers? Surely not more than a week. And if this info was available, why not release it BEFORE the vote on the 16th?

    And further, if this poll was an accurate of the electorage before the House vote, then where was the outcry after the House voted?

    Something fishy there.

    And then there's the poll itself. Gary Sargent found something very interesting by asking another pollster - a republican pollster:
    The pollster, David Johnson, the CEO of the GOP firm Strategic Vision, tells me that some of the key questions were leading and designed to elicit the answers they got.
    For instance:

    The first finding -- that 57 % support "finishing the job" -- is based on asking respondents whether they agree or disagree with the following statement: “I support finishing the job in Iraq, that is, keeping the troops there until the Iraqi government can maintain control and provide security for its people.” What does Johnson, the pollster I spoke to, think about this question?

    "It's designed to elicit a positive response by putting respondents in the position of saying that they don't support `finishing a job,'" Johnson says. "It's not a straightforward wording at all. It's also put in the first person to personalize it. In polling when you use the first person you generally get a more positive response."

    So let's see what we have. Rupert Murdoch, who admitted that his "news" channel tried to sway the national mood in favor of the war in Iraq, publishes in his New York Post an article about a "new" poll conducted more than a week before the House Resolution condemning dubya's escalation in Iraq and the questions, according to another Republican pollster were (no surprise here) designed to get pre-ordained responses.

    Yea, that's news.

    February 21, 2007

    Was Valerie Plame Covert/Overt/A Soccer Mom?

    I stumbled over this article at TPMCafe by Larry Johnson. Here's his bio.

    It's a pretty clear cut discussion of Valerie Plame's job status at the CIA. Here's his conclusion:

    The CIA knew that Valerie was a covert agent. But they did not know if the Novak leak was an intentional disclosure. That was for the FBI to determine.

    Here is the irony? If Valerie had been an overt employee or a covert employee not covered by IIPA then Scooter Libby would not have had to lie to FBI agents because there would not have been an investigation. But Valerie was a covert agent. Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer, and Richard Armitage, among others, put her name in circulation with members of the press. They harmed a covert agent and in the process did serious damage to our nation's security. This may not be relevant to the charges Scooter faces, but it is relevant to our nation's security. We now know that the Bush White House was as cavalier with the identity of a CIA officer as they have been of late with the medical care for wounded Iraqi war vets at Walter Reed. And in both cases people have probably died because of their carelessness.

    Read and memorize it. You may need it the next time you talk one of dubya's defenders.

    Are there any left? I mean outside of the wingnut space in the blogosphere...

    One More Post on The Pelosi Smear

    And I hope it's my last.

    Congressman Adam Putnam, the guy who said this at the beginning of the Pelosi Plane Smear:
    This is not about having secure communications and secure aircraft available to her. It's about an arrogance of extravagance that demands a jumbo jet that costs $22,000 an hour to operate to taxi her and her buddies back and forth to California.
    And said that her desire for a large plane is an:
    an extravagance of power that the taxpayers won't swallow.
    Now admits that he had no personal knowledge of any Pelosi request - he was just commenting on the anonymously sourced story at the Washington Times.

    The paper where he made the admission, The Tampa Tribune, goes on:
    He calls the Pelosi plane story, whatever its legitimacy, "the first break [Republicans] have had from the media in driving our message since before the Mark Foley story broke." [emphasis added]
    So he said all that and he's not even sure the story's true? That it was just an opportunity for the Republicans to "drive their message" regardless of the legitimacy of the story?

    For the record, the paper itself goes on the record about the story:
    It turns out there's no evidence Pelosi requested any such thing.
    Now what of our own homespun Pelosi Plane expert? Ruth Ann Dailey wrote a week ago:
    [T]he new Democratic speaker rejected the 12-seat Gulfstream 3 jet that her Republican predecessor had used and asked for something much larger.
    And looking at her defense column of her earlier smear column, it seems pretty obvious that she, too, relied heavily on the anonymous sourced reporting at the Washington Times.

    Will she soon admit, too, that there's no evidence that the Speaker "requested" (or asked for, or demanded, or whatever) a larger plane? Will she soon admit that she, too, doesn't really know whether the story's true, as Congressman Adam Putnam has?

    Maybe someone should ask her. I will and I'll post whatever she writes.

    February 20, 2007

    This is going to be a bad day . . .

    I just flipped on the City Channel to watch the City Council Legislative Session and there was a mime performing in council chambers.

    I missed any explanation that preceded the scene, but as best as I could make out from Councilwoman Carlisle's and the child mime's comments afterward, it had something to do with God.

    I am in great fear that any moment, Jim Motznik will appear on a unicycle and then they'll bring in the Amazing Boy Mayor.

    How The Bush Administration Supports The Troops - Part II

    Here's the other part of the story from the Washington Post.

    Read it if you have the stomach for it.

    Especially this:

    Dell McLeod's injury was utterly banal. He was in his 10th month of deployment with the 178th Field Artillery Regiment of the South Carolina National Guard near the Iraqi border when he was smashed in the head by a steel cargo door of an 18-wheeler. The hinges of the door had been tied together with a plastic hamburger-bun bag. Dell was knocked out cold and cracked several vertebrae.

    When Annette learned that he was being shipped to Walter Reed, she took a leave from her job on the assembly line at Stanley Tools and packed the car. The Army would pay her $64 a day to help care for her husband and would let her live with him at Mologne House until he recovered.

    A year later, they are still camped out in the twilight zone. Dogs are periodically brought in by the Army to search the rooms for contraband or weapons. When the fire alarm goes off, the amputees who live on the upper floors are scooped up and carried down the stairwell, while a brigade of mothers passes down the wheelchairs.

    One morning Annette opens her door and is told to stay in the room because a soldier down the hall has overdosed.

    In between, there are picnics at the home of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a charity-funded dinner cruise on the Potomac for "Today's troops, tomorrow's veterans, always heroes."

    Dell and Annette's weekdays are spent making the rounds of medical appointments, physical therapy sessions and evaluations for Dell's discharge from the Army. After 19 years, he is no longer fit for service. He uses a cane to walk. He is unable to count out change in the hospital cafeteria. He takes four Percocets a day for pain and has gained 40 pounds from medication and inactivity. Lumbering and blue-eyed, Dell is a big ox baby.

    Annette puts on makeup every morning and does her hair, some semblance of normalcy, but her new job in life is watching Dell.

    "I'm worried about how he's gonna fit into society," she says one night, as Dell wanders down the hall to the laundry room.

    The more immediate worry concerns his disability rating. Army doctors are disputing that Dell's head injury was the cause of his mental impairment. One report says that he was slow in high school and that his cognitive problems could be linked to his native intelligence rather than to his injury.

    "They said, 'Well, he was in Title I math,' like he was retarded," Annette says. "Well, y'all took him, didn't you?"

    The same fight is being waged by their friends, who aren't the young warriors in Army posters but middle-age men who left factory jobs to deploy to Iraq with their Guard units. They were fit enough for war, but now they are facing teams of Army doctors scrutinizing their injuries for signs of preexisting conditions, lessening their chance for disability benefits.

    And:
    Dell and Annette's closest friend at Mologne House is a 47-year-old Guard member who was driving an Army vehicle through the Iraqi night when a flash of light blinded him and he crashed into a ditch with an eight-foot drop. Among his many injuries was a broken foot that didn't heal properly. Army doctors decided that "late life atrophy" was responsible for the foot, not the truck wreck in Iraq.

    And this:

    Perks and stardom do not come to every amputee. Sgt. David Thomas, a gunner with the Tennessee National Guard, spent his first three months at Walter Reed with no decent clothes; medics in Samarra had cut off his uniform. Heavily drugged, missing one leg and suffering from traumatic brain injury, David, 42, was finally told by a physical therapist to go to the Red Cross office, where he was given a T-shirt and sweat pants. He was awarded a Purple Heart but had no underwear.

    David tangled with Walter Reed's image machine when he wanted to attend a ceremony for a fellow amputee, a Mexican national who was being granted U.S. citizenship by President Bush. A case worker quizzed him about what he would wear. It was summer, so David said shorts. The case manager said the media would be there and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row.

    " 'Are you telling me that I can't go to the ceremony 'cause I'm an amputee?' " David recalled asking. "She said, 'No, I'm saying you need to wear pants.' "

    David told the case worker, "I'm not ashamed of what I did, and y'all shouldn't be neither." When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it.

    I don't want to hear any more how this president supports the troops. If he'd allowed his Pentagon to abuse to just one soldier, any credibility he has on that front is gone gone gone. Read the article, there are more soldiers abuse, more humiliations at Walter Reed.

    Disgsting, disgraceful. And all on George Bush's watch.

    We'll Pay for Mayor Luke's Blunder

    Jon Delano's reporting that there may be a settlement deal in the Catherine McNeilly case:

    If Commander McNeilly's lawsuit is settled out of court, it would avoid a public trial that could prove embarrassing to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

    The terms of the agreement are not at all final but sources tell KDKA it could include:

  • McNeilly Reinstated to Commander Position
  • City to Pay McNeilly a Cash Payment under $100,000
  • City's Acknowledgment of Whistle Blower Protection
    • As Delano points out in his story, if the two sides settle then that'll keep Mayor Luke from having to testify under oath about certain things (like the exact circumstances of his being handcuffed by the police at Heinz Field, and so on).

      As the Burgh Report blogged lastnight,

      There is no way to spin a cash settlement as anything other than complete,
      embarassing defeat for the interim Mayor. The city is literally paying for
      Ravenstahl's mistakes.

      See what happens when you're too young to play in the majors?

      UPDATE: I forgot to link to Jon Delano's post. My mistake - it's now been corrected.

      February 19, 2007

      My Interview with Congressman Mike Doyle

      I was lucky enough to get 90 minutes of Congressman Mike Doyle's time this weekend. We sat at a small table in a thankfully warm coffee shop on Walnut street - I had a small decaf while he had a large coffee (with a refill, in fact. It was a long chat).

      We talked about the Iraq Resolution, Speaker Pelosi's plane, and Impeachment.

      The Iraq Resolution

      I asked about first about H.Con.Res.63. Let's take a look at the resolution itself, to see what's in it and what isn't. Here it is in its entirety.

      Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That--

      (1) Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

      (2) Congress disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

      Very simple. Part one to support the troops and part two to disapprove of the president's decision to escalate. As I said, very simple. We can guess where the the Congressman is coming from based on what he said on the House floor this week:
      Madam Speaker, as someone who has opposed this misguided diversion from the War on Terror from the very beginning, I believe it's way past time for our country to take stock of where we've been, where we are, and where we're going in Iraq.

      I think it's important to remember how we got here. President Bush told Congress and the American People:

      That Saddam had weapons of mass destruction;

      That Saddam was an imminent threat to the United States ;

      That Saddam had ties to al Qaeda and the 9/11 attackers;

      That we would be greeted as liberators;

      That the invasion, occupation, and reconstruction would cost us nothing - and that Iraqi oil revenues would cover all the costs; and

      That the invasion and reconstruction of Iraq would transform the Middle East into a region composed of peaceful democracies.

      So where are we today?

      We know that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. We know that Saddam posed no imminent threat to the United States . We know that Saddam had no operational relationship with al Qaeda. 80 percent of the Iraqi people want us to leave their country.
      The nonbinding resolution passed the House 246-182. There were 17 Republicans who voted in favor of the resolution (in spite of what Doyle caled "feverish" work of the Republicans to keep in control of all their members) and 2 Democrats voted against. I asked the Congressman the "goldilocks" question (was the resolution too strong? too weak? just right?) and the first thing he said was that if it was the only thing the House was going to do, he'd have voted against it - it's only the first step.

      While he said he feels that the public is "ahead of us on this" and called it a vote of no confidence for the president's new strategy - a bipartisan one at that.

      The second step, he said, was found with Congressman John Murtha's plans for the Pentagon budget. It clearly supports the troops, Doyle said, as they won't be sent into harm's way without the proper training or equipment or rest. It'll set some rules for the Pentagon to follow before sending any more troops into battle.

      The third step, as outlined by Doyle, would be to redeploy the troops in the area - keep a multinational force over there to contain the civil war. Staying there, he said, only keeps Iraq's Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from making the tough decisions on securing his own country. While we're there, Doyle said, we're his police force. What al-Maliki wants is for the US to "build him an invincible police force before we leave."

      He brought up how Republicans always point out how the Democrats don't have a plan. Here's mine, he said: Contain the civil war and stabilize the region through heavy diplomacy. We can do that with about 50,000 troops in the region.

      He brought up an interesting point - one that should probably be emphasized. He said there are two camps in considering Iraq's place in the war on terror. Camp one says that Iraq is definitely a huge part of the war on terror. The president and his backers hold this position. Camp two says that the war in Iraq is a diversion. Doyle places himself in this camp.

      Like a lot of contentious discussions, neither side can accept the other's general position, so it's impossible to settle things.

      The Pelosi Smear

      When I asked about Speaker Pelosi's airplane (and the "scandal" surrounding it), Doyle began with two words "buncha crap." He went on to restate the facts that everyone but those who only get their news from the Washington Times and Brit Hume; The Sargent-at-Arms Bill Livingood (a 31 year veteran of the Secret Service and elected during the 104th Congress, by the way) is the one who made the inquiries into the travel arrangements and so on.

      We all know the story, by now.

      Doyle said it was kind of funny when the story first broke, but once they got to see how brutal it was, it became annoying. Doyle, though, added that they (meaning the Republicans who're trying their best to keep this "story" alive) want to talk about anything (ANYTHING!) but the war in Iraq. This is the best they can scrape together.

      Impeachment

      We talked abit about the "I" word. Doyle pointed out that his "legacy will never be to make Dick Cheney President." And that's the basis of his thought on impeachment.

      Obviously with the word posted above the logo on this blog, we feel a little different, but that's OK.

      Doyle feels that impeachment would be a diversion that would only serve to boost the president's approval ratings as his core would rally around him, taking with them, probably, a sizeable number of moderate republicans with them.

      The real damage to be done is through strict oversight (and on this we, of course, agree). Once all the corruption is uncovered (for example how much taxpayer money's been wasted in Iraq) those guilty will be leaving office humiliated. Impeachment would inevitably be spun as a political circus. Oversight hearings will prove the charges.

      Ruth Ann Responds

      Here's Ruth Ann Dailey's defense of her offensive Pelosi Smear column.

      Turns out her defense isn't very strong either. She sets out via a timeline to support a position that only she (and a few other wingnuts to the right Tony Snow) still seems to think is true. We know Ruth Ann can do better than this. We've seen Ruth Ann do better than this. But I guess she doesn't want to admit her mistakes and this column is just a complicated dance to make her charges seem less out there than they actually are.

      Here's how she starts the column. She probably doesn't get the irony at the end of the first paragraph (but then again, she probably wouldn't):

      It's rarely worthwhile to revisit a recent topic, but the writing of, and response to, last Monday's column is too interesting to pass up. It gives unusual insight into a modern irony: Despite the Internet's vast resources, people can find as much news, or as little, as suits their agenda.

      Many people first noticed the flap over Rep. Nancy Pelosi's military airplane around Feb. 7 or 8, when the nation's bigger media began covering it. But good and undisputed reporting had been under way for a full week.

      She uses the word "undisputed" here. Remember that.

      She begins her defense of her smear where it began, with this article in the Washington Times. Hardly a credible source nowadays. That quote by Abraham Lincoln had been debunked last August, and yet the paper that Ruth Ann Dailey is relying on for its journalistic credibility took more than two days to issue a correction after it was reminded that Lincoln never said it.

      Good choice, Ruth Ann.

      Anway, this is what Ruth Ann Daily wrote:

      The Washington Times, widely considered a conservative newspaper, was the first to break the story on Feb. 1, when both Pentagon and Bush administration sources revealed details of stalled negotiations with the speaker of the House.

      "The sources ... said she is seeking regular military flights not only for herself and her staff, but also for relatives. ... The speaker's legal counsel is spearheading the talks." [emphasis in original]

      Watch carefully those ellipses. She's combined two different sentences (from two different paragraphs) into one. Here's the source of the first:
      The sources, who include those in Congress and in the administration, said the Democrat is seeking regular military flights not only for herself and her staff, but also for relatives and for other members of the California delegation. A knowledgeable source called the request "carte blanche for an aircraft any time."
      Why omit the phrase between those commas? I'm not sure. This is the second paragraph of the WashTimes article, by the way. Four paragraphs later (the article's sixth) there's the other half of Ruth Ann's sentence:
      Sources said Mrs. Pelosi's request goes beyond what Mr. Hastert received. The speaker's legal counsel is spearheading the talks.
      Looks like she's lumping all the "sources" into one pile and then attributing any of the information from one to any of them. But the first quote is obviously from a political source and the second (owing to it's placement in the article) is obviously a defense source. Why? Just take a look at this. It's the previous two paragraphs in the Washtimes article:

      Mrs. Pelosi's request is not new for a speaker, who is second-in-line in presidential succession. A defense source said the speaker's regular access to a military plane began after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Rep. J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, who was speaker at the time, started using U.S. Air Force planes for domestic travel to and from his district for security reasons. A former Hastert aide said the congressman did not use military planes for political trips or regularly transport his family.

      The defense source said Mr. Hastert requested a plane with good communications so he could conduct legislative business. The military flights increased to the point the speaker used a military plane for many, if not all, flights to his Illinois district, the former aide said.

      It's a small point, but take a look at the detail that isn't there. The sources are all unnamed and are from the administration and Congress (can we guess which party?) and much later the Pentagon. Lumping them all together makes them all seem to fit together.

      Eventually in her time line of sources she gets to some actual names:
      Also on Thursday, House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood stated that the initial request for Ms. Pelosi's airplane had come from him, as well as an insistence on nonstop flights.

      An Associated Press article on Mr. Livingood's role and on the White House's defense of Ms. Pelosi adopted the tone of breezy dismissal apparent in Tony Snow's word, "silly." Most irate readers I heard from e-mailed a copy of this article, often via political blogs, as if AP's brief, tardy coverage was definitive.

      You may not think the AP coverage is, but Livingood's statement certainly is definitive, Ruth Ann. Far more definitive than the "unnamed sources" of the Washington Times' coverage. For those who may have missed it, here's Livingood's statement (in its entirety):

      As the Sergeant at Arms, I have the responsibility to ensure the security of the members of the House of Representatives, to include the Speaker of the House. The Speaker requires additional precautions due to her responsibilities as the leader of the House and her Constitutional position as second in the line of succession to the presidency.

      In a post 9/11 threat environment, it is reasonable and prudent to provide military aircraft to the Speaker for official travel between Washington and her district. The practice began with Speaker Hastert and I have recommended that it continue with Speaker Pelosi. The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable. This will ensure communications capabilities and also enhance security. I made the recommendation to use military aircraft based upon the need to provide necessary levels of security for ranking national leaders, such as the Speaker. I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue.

      Also, I'd think that this does dispute the Washington Times' story, doesn't it? Something Ruth Ann failed to point out. Here's more of what Tony Snow said:
      Well, I'll reiterate our position. The question -- the RNC has put out a statement on Speaker Pelosi and travel arrangements, and I'll just repeat our position, which is, as Speaker of the House, she is entitled to military transport, and that the arrangements, the proper arrangements are being made between the Sergeant of Arms office in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Department of Defense. We think it's appropriate, and so, again, I think this is much ado about not a whole lot. It is important for the Speaker to have this kind of protection and travel. It was certainly appropriate for Speaker Hastert. So we trust that all sides will get this worked out.
      So when she says that the stuff that's in the Washington Times is "undisputed" she's, well, wrong, isn't she? Tony Snow himself said that the arrangements were being made by the Sergeant-at-Arms and the DOD, not Pelosi's office, not Murtha's. Looks like THE WHITE HOUSE is disputing the story that Ruth Ann Dailey is on the record saying is "undisputed."

      Nice going, Ruth Ann.

      And yet she valiantly continues:
      Close reading of all the news available, however, reveals that none of the reports cancels others out. For instance, Mr. Livingood's initiation of the request doesn't mean that Ms. Pelosi, her staff and Mr. Murtha didn't also make requests -- or, in Mr. Murtha's case, threats. They did. This reporting has not been disproven; indeed, Ms. Pelosi's first statements on the conflict confirm her involvement, and Mr. Murtha has boasted of his role.
      It's also not disproven that the flying spaghetti monster created the universe. No proof of it either. Too bad she doesn't include any quotations to support what she's asserting. Here's one:

      Pelosi said she would be happy to fly on commercial airliners but said the House sergeant-at-arms office urged her to continue Hastert's practice of using Air Force transport. She said she was informed on her first trip home that her plane would not make it across the country.

      "I said well, that's fine, I'm going commercial," she told Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren. "I'm not asking to go on that plane. If you need to take me there for security purposes, you're going to have to get a plane that goes across the country, because I'm going home to my family."

      Her nest part is pretty egregious.
      But people who would savage George Bush for asserting the sky is blue fell all over themselves to embrace the White House's support of Ms. Pelosi, forgetting that it might simply be savvy political posturing: The White House got to speak softly while some House Republicans wielded a medium-size stick, just as Washington headed into congressional debate on the Iraq surge.
      My god, is she saying the White House is lying? Well she uses the phrase "savvy political posturing" but "lying" covers it. She wants us to think that Tony Snow played "good cop" to the Congressional Republicans "bad cop" and that 1) the "bad cops" are speaking the truth and 2) the "good cop" (i.e the White House) knows that it's manipulating the truth.

      This is how far Ruth Ann Dailey, faithful Republican, had to go to support her smear: The White House is lying about it.

      I'll leave it at that.

      February 18, 2007

      This Is How The Bush Administration Supports The Troops

      We're constantly told that if you don't support the war, you can't support the troops. Because (and this is the "logic" here) if you support the troops, by definition you want them to succeed (you can't want them to fail, do you?).

      And if that's the case, you can't BOTH be against the war and want the troops to succeed. Ergo, if you're against the war, you're against the troops.

      As my British friends would say, complete bollocks, of course.

      But all that aside, let's take a look at how the Administration (who presumably support the war) is actually supporting the troops.

      If you have the stomach for it, go read through this whole article from today's Washington Post.

      I'm sure the part about the cockroaches and mice will get the most press:

      Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

      This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      And remember, this is where some returning servicemen and women are dropped when their time at Walter Reed hospital is over. It is, as the article points out, a place where almost 700 of them mostly soldiers, with some Marines "have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty."

      The tales of the bureaucratic bungling are horrifying.
      Vera Heron spent 15 frustrating months living on post to help care for her son. "It just absolutely took forever to get anything done," Heron said. "They do the paperwork, they lose the paperwork. Then they have to redo the paperwork. You are talking about guys and girls whose lives are disrupted for the rest of their lives, and they don't put any priority on it."
      15 months.

      Here's one reason the paperwork's a nightmare:
      Life beyond the hospital bed is a frustrating mountain of paperwork. The typical soldier is required to file 22 documents with eight different commands -- most of them off-post -- to enter and exit the medical processing world, according to government investigators. Sixteen different information systems are used to process the forms, but few of them can communicate with one another. The Army's three personnel databases cannot read each other's files and can't interact with the separate pay system or the medical recordkeeping databases.
      Take a look at how dubya's Pentagon supported one of its own:
      Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, 43, came in on one of those buses in November 2004 and spent several weeks on the fifth floor of Walter Reed's hospital. His eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round. His odyssey in the Other Walter Reed has lasted more than two years, but it began when someone handed him a map of the grounds and told him to find his room across post.

      A reconnaissance and land-navigation expert, Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn't even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright, he said. He asked anyone he found for directions.

      Shannon had led the 2nd Infantry Division's Ghost Recon Platoon until he was felled in a gun battle in Ramadi. He liked the solitary work of a sniper; "Lone Wolf" was his call name. But he did not expect to be left alone by the Army after such serious surgery and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He had appointments during his first two weeks as an outpatient, then nothing.

      "I thought, 'Shouldn't they contact me?' " he said. "I didn't understand the paperwork. I'd start calling phone numbers, asking if I had appointments. I finally ran across someone who said: 'I'm your case manager. Where have you been?'

      "Well, I've been here! Jeez Louise, people, I'm your hospital patient!"
      And a few paragraphs later:
      Shannon, who wears an eye patch and a visible skull implant, said he had to prove he had served in Iraq when he tried to get a free uniform to replace the bloody one left behind on a medic's stretcher. When he finally tracked down the supply clerk, he discovered the problem: His name was mistakenly left off the "GWOT list" -- the list of "Global War on Terrorism" patients with priority funding from the Defense Department.

      He brought his Purple Heart to the clerk to prove he was in Iraq.
      Others also had to prove their service.
      The disappearance of necessary forms and records is the most common reason soldiers languish at Walter Reed longer than they should, according to soldiers, family members and staffers. Sometimes the Army has no record that a soldier even served in Iraq. A combat medic who did three tours had to bring in letters and photos of herself in Iraq to show she that had been there, after a clerk couldn't find a record of her service.
      Another story of how dubya's Pentagon's been supporting the troops:

      The soldier, Cpl. Jeremy Harper, returned from Iraq with PTSD after seeing three buddies die. He kept his room dark, refused his combat medals and always seemed heavily medicated, said people who knew him. According to his mother, Harper was drunkenly wandering the lobby of the Mologne House on New Year's Eve 2004, looking for a ride home to West Virginia. The next morning he was found dead in his room. An autopsy showed alcohol poisoning, she said.

      "I can't understand how they could have let kids under the age of 21 have liquor," said Victoria Harper, crying. "He was supposed to be right there at Walter Reed hospital. . . . I feel that they didn't take care of him or watch him as close as they should have."

      The Army posthumously awarded Harper a Bronze Star for his actions in Iraq.

      I bet that made his family feel so much better.

      The humiliations continue:

      The frustrations of an outpatient's day begin before dawn. On a dark, rain-soaked morning this winter, Sgt. Archie Benware, 53, hobbled over to his National Guard platoon office at Walter Reed. Benware had done two tours in Iraq. His head had been crushed between two 2,100-pound concrete barriers in Ramadi, and now it was dented like a tin can. His legs were stiff from knee surgery. But here he was, trying to take care of business.

      At the platoon office, he scanned the white board on the wall. Six soldiers were listed as AWOL. The platoon sergeant was nowhere to be found, leaving several soldiers stranded with their requests.

      Benware walked around the corner to arrange a dental appointment -- his teeth were knocked out in the accident. He was told by a case manager that another case worker, not his doctor, would have to approve the procedure.

      "Goddamn it, that's unbelievable!" snapped his wife, Barb, who accompanied him because he can no longer remember all of his appointments.

      Take a look at the guy's age. He's 53. He had his skull crushed and all his teeth knocked out and on top of that, he's got memory problems. And it looks like he's on his own. Just like Harper and Shannon and Duncan and the rest of them.

      Yea, these's folks are being supported.
      This is how dubya's supporting the troops. I want them all safe and taken care of - so who's the patriot now?

      LTE Follow-up on Ruth Ann's Latest Propaganda

      You remember this column, right?

      I blogged on it here.

      Looks like I wasn't the only one to think Ruth Ann drank the conservative kool-aid. Three (count 'em three) letters to the editor in today's P-G suggest (at the very least) that the lovely and talented Ms Dailey rather undaintilly stepped off the reality train on this one.

      The first letter, by a Frank Bienkowski of Wilkinsburg, gets the facts right:
      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn't ask, let alone "demand," a military aircraft for flights to her home district in California. The suggestion came from the House sergeant-at-arms, who did so as a matter of maintaining the security protocol afforded former House Speaker Dennis Hastert following 9/11. A larger plane is necessary to fly nonstop from Washington to San Francisco than could do so to Chicago. Ms. Pelosi had stated that she is satisfied with taking commercial nonstop flights as she has been doing while serving in Washington.
      While the second letter, from a William Edmonds of Robinson, reminds us why the security for Speaker Pelosi is so important:

      Given the health conditions of our second in command, I believe we should be extra careful with our speaker of the House. But what is absolutely stunning is that Ms. Dailey parrots this line of baseless nonsense on Monday, so long after it had been shown to be such.

      If only her column were published as harmless gossip, since she apparently has no interest in fact-checking, that would be different. But as presented, it is harmful, divisive and partisan mudslinging, and absolutely does not belong in your newspaper.

      While the third letter, from a Conor Tobin of Upper St. Clair (obviously no fan of Speaker Pelosi or of the Democrats as seen in his first paragraph) chimes in with an obvious point. All the talk about the plane is a diversion from talking about the real issues facing the country. While I'd disagree with Mr. Tobin on what those issues are, it's good to see a conservative who understands Republican nonsense (hogwash, BS, propaganda, etc) when he sees it:

      To set the stage, I consider electing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be one of the great voter mistakes of the 21st century slightly behind the continued and patently inexplicable re-elections of Ted Kennedy.

      That said, conservatives are attempting to make an issue of the request to have a larger government aircraft at her disposal. The aircraft former House Speaker Dennis Hastert used has insufficient range to fly from coast to coast. Mr. Hastert did not need that kind of range. Speaker Pelosi does.

      Let's get on to discussions over the things that actually should keep us up at night. Nancy Pelosi's inability to grasp the very real threats that face this nation could be one. President Bush's inability to ignore dangerous pandering to secure our borders is another.

      I wonder if Ruth Ann Dailey will be offering up a mea culpa anytime soon.

      Yea, me neither.

      February 16, 2007

      Peduto Launches Interactive Cyber Campaign 



      Campaign blog? Check
      YouTube videos?
      Check
      MySpace page?
      Check
      Facebook page?
      There's two

      Bill Peduto's mayoral campaign web site (www.billpeduto.com) has re-launched today as an "Interactive Cyber Campaign."

      According to a statement released by the campaign, they promise open discussion on their blog:
      "Unlike many politicians' blogs, which often limit discourse, the Peduto campaign blog invites interactivity and offers an opportunity for discourse," said Merriman-Preston.
      Those of you who remember Peduto's 2005 site may recall that it was also tech savvy for its time, being Pittsburgh's first campaign to feature a blog and podcasting.

      We're guessing it won't be long before Luke for Mayor adds some content to that site now that they've had a chance to see Bill's (more on this P-G article later).

      On That Lincoln Quote

      It made it onto the House Floor.




      Another conservative Republican using a discredited quote from Abraham Lincoln. I know they have the google over there on the Republican Internets. Don't they know how to use it?

      Here's the line again:
      Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.
      Turns out that Congressman Young took the quote directly from the Washington Times, where it appeared earlier this week in a column by Frank Gaffney. Even though the quotation's been shown to be false, the Times (Ronald Reagan's favorite Newspaper, by the way) has thus far failed to offer a retraction.

      NEW YORK More than two days after an inflammatory quote used by a regular Washington Times columnist was shown to be fabricated -- it was attributed to Abraham Lincoln, no less -- the newspaper still has not removed it from the article, nor carried a correction.

      That's one reason Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) cited the quote on the floor of the House today in the debate over the Iraq war "surge." He took it to be true, apparently. Rep. Young added, referring to Lincoln: "He had the same problem this President has, with an unpopular war. The same problem with people trying to redirect the commander in chief."

      Young's spokeswoman, Meredith Kenny, said the congressman took the quote directly from The Washington Times column. "Now that he's been informed these are not the actual words of Lincoln, he will discontinue attributing the words to Lincoln. However, he continues to totally agree with the message of the statement," Kenny told The Washington Post.

      So even though he was caught using a fabricated quote, he still agrees with it? Since when does a member of the House of Representatives get away with calling for the execution of fellow House Members?

      February 15, 2007

      From the Floor of the House of Representatives - Altmire

      I recieved this today via e-mail. It is Congressman Jason Altmire's prepared statement in favor of H. Con. Res 63, The Iraq resolution now being debated in the United States House of Representatives:

      In the lead up to the war in Iraq, the President offered the American people many reasons why we should enter this conflict. We were told unequivocally that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat to the United States. We have since learned that the pre-war intelligence was completely inaccurate. We were told that proceeds from Iraq's oil reserves would pay for the cost of the war. Instead, the American people have paid the cost of the war - costs nearing $400 billion with a supplemental request for an additional $100 billion. We were told that we would be greeted as liberators. But nothing could be further from the truth. More than 3,000 American troops have been killed, more than 23,000 injured, and the violence in Iraq continues to escalate. There are over 900 weekly attacks on U.S. troops.

      These predictions were in the past, but they are instructive as we consider the President's current predictions about how to achieve success in Iraq.

      The American people have expressed their clear frustration with the conduct of the war. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group offered a comprehensive strategy to successfully move combat forces out of Iraq. High-level military leaders, including General John Abizaid, have expressed opposition to an escalation of troops.

      But the President continues to ignore public opinion, reject sound advice, and stubbornly adhere to his failed go-it-alone policies. He says he wants a bipartisan study, but when the results are not to his liking, he disregards it. He says he wants to hear from his advisors, but when they disagree with him, he dismisses them. He says he wants to hear from his generals on the ground, but when they tell him what he doesn't want to hear, they are reassigned.

      Perhaps this explains why so many of the predictions we have heard from this Administration have turned out so wrong. The fact is, the President's plan to escalate the war in Iraq is not a new policy - it is more of the same failed policy.
      The solution in Iraq requires the Iraqis themselves to reach a political settlement and take responsibility for their own country. The continued open-ended commitment of U.S. forces only deters the Iraqis from making the appropriate political decisions, training security forces, and enacting the reforms necessary to achieve stability.

      The Iraq War resolution before us today is simple and straightforward. Let me explain what is does and what it doesn't do.

      First and foremost, it expresses our continued support for our military men and women who are serving bravely and honorably. It also expresses the sense of Congress that we disapprove of the decision made by the President to send additional troops to Iraq.

      Make no mistake, this is a resolution in support of our troops. Anyone who says otherwise is simply wrong. No member of this House, Republican or Democrat, wants anything less than victory in Iraq and to support our troops. This resolution does not affect the funding levels to carry out the war. And on that point, let me be clear: as long as we have troops in the field of battle and brave Americans in harm's way, I will never vote to withhold their funding.

      I support this resolution because we have a duty as representatives of the American people to continue to voice their opinion - that with his policy of escalation, the President is heading down the wrong path.

      The best way forward is for the President to work with Congress to change course and adopt a responsible strategy that protects American interests - in Iraq, throughout the region, and at home. This resolution is the first step in a new direction on Iraq. I urge every member of this House, on both sides of the aisle, to heed the call for change and vote for this resolution.

      There's a clip here.

      The View from Baltimore

      Some tidbits from Thomas Schaller, writing in the The Sun:

      According to the latest Gallup survey, Republican self-identification has declined nationally and in almost every American state. Why? The short answer is that President Bush's war of choice in Iraq has destroyed the partisan brand Republicans spent the past four decades building.

      That brand was based upon four pillars: that Republicans are more trustworthy on defense and military issues; that they know when and where markets can replace or improve government; that they are more competent administrators of those functions government can't privatize; and, finally, that their public philosophy is imbued with moral authority. The war demolished all four claims.

      He then goes on to give examples.

      On defense issues:

      In uniform or out, Americans think Iraq is a disaster, oppose escalation and blame Mr. Bush and his party for the mess in Mesopotamia. Heading into the 2006 mid-terms, polls showed Republicans trailing Democrats as the party most trusted to handle Iraq and terrorism. Nationally, Mr. Bush's war approval ratings hover around 30 percent.

      Military members are skeptical, too. A Military Times poll released in December revealed that only 35 percent of military members approved of the president's handling of the war - despite the fact that 46 percent of them are self-identified Republicans...

      On being "imbued with moral authority" he writes:

      Finally, there is the war's morality. In what moral system is it justified to wage a war without paying for it? Mr. Bush tormented Sen. John Kerry in 2004 for "voting for before voting against" funding the war. But Mr. Kerry voted for a version of the $87 billion appropriation bill that also raised revenues to pay for it. Instead, we pile the war's costs atop our mountainous national debt, leaving future generations to pay for it later - plus interest.

      The administration is asking for another $245 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan - an amount that, were it set aside and allowed to accrue interest, could pay the entire budget of a mid-size state like Maryland for almost a decade. This sum, too, will be added to America's giant credit card bill - an act of moral cowardice from the same White House that gives lectures about the sanctity of marriage and embryonic stem cells.

      On the third, pillar, "superior management skills" Schaller unloads this:
      Notice, too, how management "success" has been steadily defined downward: from disarming an unarmed Saddam Hussein, to bringing liberation and democratization, to establishing basic security, to avoiding a domestic civil war, to "holding and clearing" Baghdad, to the current goal of preventing a regional conflagration that wouldn't be imminent had we not gone to Iraq in the first place. Talk about the soft bigotry of low - and lowering - expectations.
      Schaller may be over stating his case, or he may be right on the money.

      In any case, I'd have to admit that dubya has done a great deal of damage to the Republican party. The credibility of the Republic party was shredded by dubya, plain and simple. How can (better yet, why should) the citizens of this country ever trust any member of that party?

      I'll ask again. Where are the tons and tons of WMD? Saddam's ties to al-qaeda? We know that the Republicans didn't know what they said they knew when they said they knew it. And that's what's known as lying.

      Very little credibility left, I'm afraid. And that's too bad. Becuase it'll make it that much harder for honest conservatives in the future to be taken seriously.

      From the Floor of the House of Representatives - Nadler

      Congressman Jerry Nadler said this:
      Mr Speaker, the American people and members of Congress were decieved. Every reason we were given for invading Iraq was false. Weapons of Mass Destruction? Not there. Saddam Hussein working hand-in-glove with Al Qaeda? Not true.

      I ask you: if the President had gone to the American people and said we must invade a country that poses no imminent threat to us, and sacrifice thousands of lives in order to create a democratic government in Iraq, would we have assented? I think not.

      And as the President now says to us that we should continue indefinitely to expend American blood and treasure to support one side in a sectarian civil war, should Congress continue to consent? I think not.

      We need to say "Enough already!" Enough with the lies, and the deceit and the evasions! Enough with the useless bloodshed. We must protect our troops and ensure their safety while they are in Iraq. But we must not send more troops there to intervene in a civil war whose outcome they cannot determine. And we should set a swift timetable to withdraw our troops from Iraq, and let the contending Iraqi factions know that we will not continue to expend American blood and treasure to referee their civil war. Only if faced with the reality of imminent withdrawal of American troops might the Iraqis strike a deal with each other, and end the civil war.

      We know, Mr Speaker, that the Administration has botched the handling of this war; they stood by as Baghdad was looted, they failed to guard ammunition depots, they disbanded the Iraqi army, they crippled the government by firing all the competent civil servants in the name of de-Baathification. And they wasted countless billions of dollars on private contractors and on God only-knows-what, with no accounting.

      And all this while they continue to deny resources to the real war on the real terrorists. They let Osama bin Laden escape. They allowed the Taliban to recover and reconquer. They allow our ports to remain unprotected from uninspected shipping containers. And they let loose nuclear materials remain unaccounted for, waiting to be smuggled to Al Qaeda to be made into nuclear weapons.

      And why does the President want more troops in Iraq? To expand our role from fighting Sunni insurgents to fighting the Shiite militias also. Of course, when we attack the Shiite militias, they will respond by shifting their targets from Sunnis to American troops. American casualties will skyrocket, and we will be fighting two insurgencies instead of one.

      I believe the President has no real plan other than not to "lose Iraq" on his watch, and to hand over the whole mess to his successor in two years. He will ignore anything we do that doesn't have the force of law.

      That is why this resolution must be only the first step.

      In the Supplemental Budget we will consider next month, we should exercise the only real power we have - the Congressional power of the purse. We will not cut off the funds, and leave our troops defenseless before the enemy, as the demagogues would imply, but we should limit the use of the funds we provide to protecting the troops while they are in Iraq and to withdrawing them on a timetable mandated in the law. We should provide funds to rebuild the army and to raise our readiness levels, for diplomatic conferences in case there is any possibility of negotiating an end to the Iraqi civil war, and for economic reconstruction assistance, but above all, we must use the power of the purse to mandate a timetable to withdraw the troops from Iraq.

      We must use the power the people have entrusted to us. The best way to protect our troops is to withdraw them from the middle of a civil war they cannot win, and that is not our fight.

      I know that, if we withdraw the troops, the civil war may continue and could get worse. But this is probably inevitable, no matter how long our troops remain. And if the Iraqis must fight a civil war, I would rather they fight it without 20,000 more Americans dying.

      Yes, the blindness of the Administration is largely to blame for starting the civil war in Iraq, but we cannot end it. Only the Iraqis can settle their civil war. We can only make it worse, and waste our blood and treasure pointlessly.

      So let us pass this resolution, and then let us lead this country out of the morass in Iraq, so that we can devote our resources to protecting ourselves from the terrorists and to improving the lives of our people.

      Crooks and Liars has the clip.

      February 14, 2007

      Another Conservative Gets Caught

      A few days ago it was local columnist Ruth Ann Dailey who was guilty of passing along debunked stories as true.

      This time it's the President of the Center for Security Policy (and frequent guest on Fred Honsberger's radio show), Frank Gaffney.

      Via Glenn Greenwald's column at Salon.com, we can see that Mr Gaffney begins his latest column with this quotation of Abraham Lincoln:
      Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.
      The quotation, though, has been shown to be a fake. Here's factcheck.org from August, 2006:
      (there's even a Pennsylvania connection!):

      Supporters of President Bush and the war in Iraq often quote Abraham Lincoln as saying members of Congress who act to damage military morale in wartime "are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged."

      Republican candidate Diana Irey used the "quote" recently in her campaign against Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, and it has appeared thousands of times on the Internet, in newspaper articles and letters to the editor, and in Republican speeches.

      But Lincoln never said that. The conservative author who touched off the misquotation frenzy, J. Michael Waller, concedes that the words are his, not Lincoln's. Waller says he never meant to put quote marks around them, and blames an editor for the mistake and the failure to correct it. We also note other serious historical errors in the Waller article containing the bogus quote.

      For the record Diana Irey retracted the quotation within hours of factcheck's posting of the above. Good for her.

      My question is this: Here's a bit of information that's already shown to be false, and yet it's used as a weapon against the President's political adversaries - how long before Ruth Ann Dailey uses the Lincoln quotation and presents it as the truth?

      Following up on Santorum.

      I missed this column the first few times. But get a gander and what Ralph Reiland, columnist for The Tribune-Review, has to say about my favorite ex-Senator-who-was-voted-out-of-office-by a-huge-margin-because-no-one-liked-him.

      In his new job, Rick Santorum is an employee of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank. "Our mission is to explore how the Judeo-Christian tradition applies to public policy," explains the center's president, M. Edward Whelan.

      More specifically, Santorum will create and run EPPC's new "America's Enemies" program. "It's a stark name," says Santorum, "but we wanted to be candid about the fact that America really does have enemies and to point out that the nature of these enemies is much more complex than what people realize."

      Note that we're dumb -- again. Just as we were moral pigmies when it came to understanding the gathering man-on-dog storm, now we're foreign policy pygmies when it comes to recognizing that America "really does have enemies" and that "the nature of these enemies is much more complex" than we realize.

      "I was left after the election with a very clear sense of two things," explains Santorum. "Number one, the more I looked into the threat that confronts us, the more concerned I was about the gravity of that threat. And, number two, the more convinced I was that the American people didn't understand it."

      He's "convinced," in short, that we just don't get it, don't see the "gravity," don't "understand it," just as too many of us didn't understand his make-em-suffer prescription for helping the poor. "Making people struggle a little bit," he maintained, "is not necessarily the worst thing."

      Could not agree more.

      I would like to point out that Santorum's latest frothy ejaculation on "the threat we're too dumb to face" is eeriely similar to some of the troll rants here at 2PJ.

      Coincidence? I think not - just keeping tabs on the wingnuts of the world.