We are the 99%

March 31, 2007

On Why We Shouldn't Torture

I heard this last night on Real Time with Bill Maher.

Ok, so it's NOT a transcript (haven't been able to find one) but I think I got the gist of it.

BM said that we can't take the moral high ground in regards to the Iranian seizure of those British sailors/marines if they're tortured. If we complain, what are the Iranians gonna say, that they're not doing it correctly?

Thus Spake Bill Maher.

March 30, 2007

Success: Rick Swartz will be on the ballot!

Challengers cry, "Uncle!"

As we mentioned here, Onorato's Boys challenged Rick's petitions. Here's the latest on this story from the Swartz Campaign:
About an hour before the court date, Rick Swartz's redoubtable lawyer, Chuck Pascal, got the news: he, and we, had disproved, countered, or otherwise de-fanged enough of their challenges. They threw in the towel.

Maybe it was the 92 year-old who wrote, "I have been living at this address since 1927."

Maybe it was the affidavit from Ben Woods (who is, indeed, a Democrat...).

Maybe it was the people we had ready to come in and testify.

Maybe they were just wasting our precious time from day 1.

We'll never know.

But, one way or another, Rick is on the ballot, and the campaign is moving forward.

Rick could definitely use a little bit of people's money (hint, hint...and yes, we're looking into ways to take web donations and stay within campaign finance rules...but don't let that stop you from mailing a small check, using the "issues coding" process).

And, Rick's website is up now (hot off the presses from yours truly):

www.citizensforswartz.com

Where in the world is Luke Ravenstahl?

Agent Ska is all over this story!

Pittsburgh's Boy Mayor told the Mount Washington Democratic Committee that he could not attend a previous meeting because he claimed to have been suddenly called to New York City on that day (Monday, January 22, 2007) to discuss Penguins business.

Being the Video Diva that she is, Agent Ska captured Lukey's excuse and put it on YouTube:



Knowing our Boy Mayor's past troubles with both trips to NYC and telling HUGE WHOPPING LIES, Ska decided to poke around a bit to see if the Mayor's excuse held up.

You can see the results of her investigations here.

Hint: While not conclusive, it sure ain't pretty!

Swartz fights to have his voice heard

From the Rick Swarz Campaign:

Candidate Rick Swartz Challenged for Place on Democratic Ballot

On Friday, March 30, in the courtroom of Judge Joseph M. James, beginning at 1:30 PM, Allegheny County Chief Executive candidate Richard P. Swartz (long-time director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation) will have his day in court. Facing a team of lawyers from one of the most highly regarded and expensive law firms in the state, candidate Swartz intends to persevere with an all-volunteer staff and the help of his lawyer, Leechburg Mayor and current Armstrong County Judicial Candidate, Charles A. Pascal, Jr.

Last week, an unprecedented string of nominating petition challenges sidelined many would-be candidates, and sapped the time and resources of other local candidates such as Brenda Frazier and Patrick Dowd, who emerged victorious. Other prominent candidates have dropped out of contention at the city and county level.

Current chief executive Dan Onorato is praising the resulting absence of challengers: "Maybe the city's in a position to look for some security and let things settle down a bit...We don't have elections to distract us."

Is democracy a distraction? Richard King, defender of the democratic process, says, "Democracy is about open debate...Dan needs a challenger to pull him out of being too secure." Voting rights advocate Audrey Glickman, adds, "Perhaps [democracy] makes Mr. Onorato feel insecure, distracted, and subject to scrutiny because of his poor choice of a soon-to-be-obsolete voting system." Adds past Democratic ward chair Jonathan Robison, "We need to debate the proposed transit cuts and hold a referendum. This is a deeply inappropriate time to close down the primary process."

Candidate Swartz is determined to remain on the ballot, and his campaign will help Chief Executive Dan Onorato hear the messages he's not currently getting from his inner circle. To that end, Swartz asks supporters to code their contributions: donations ending in $.95 for people who are upset about the transit situation; donations ending in $.96 for people who are upset about the voting machine fiasco; $.97 for road and development decisions; $.98 if you feel the assessment issue has not been fixed; and $0.99 for people who generally support the democratic process and want the county executive to listen better on ALL issues.

Contacts:
Acting Campaign Manager Joy Sabl
CitizensForSwartz@gmail.com
Campaign contributions to Citizens for Swartz:
Treasurer Heisler
208 S. Pacific Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15224-1720
Website (under construction): http://www.citizensforswartz.com

Richard P. Swartz for County Executive: "A real Democrat listens."


Ironically, The Post-Gazette runs a story the very day that Danny O's Camp is in court to try to keep Swarz off the ballot telling how Danny feels about court cases that folks bring against him/his:
Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato complained about the courts meddling in county business yesterday after two recent rulings went against his office.

He called a news conference, he said, because he wanted to "express a little frustration in trying to govern and constantly having the judiciary block us as we try to deal with a home rule government."

Karma's a bitch!

Monumental Media Events of Our Time

MAYORAL DEBATE
Saturday, March 31, 2007, 10:00 PM
WBGN TV



You want a a mayoral debate?

The "It's Alive" crew accommodates -- Professor Emcee Square will debate "Mayor Ravenstahl" Saturday night at 10:00 PM on WBGN TV. (A reminder that it may have been The Carbolic Smoke Ball's online poll pitting Lukey against the Prof against Peduto which persuaded the latter to drop out of the race.)

If you've never seen "It's Alive" before think "Chiller Theater" for a new millennium.


MACYAPPER RETURNS TO THE AIRWAVES
Monday, April 2, 2007, 1:00 - 4:00 PM
WTZN-FM 93.7



John McIntire (MacYapper) returns to the airwaves on the new WTZN-FM 93.7 "THE ZONE, PITTSBURGH'S MAN STATION" (I'm guessing they won't mind you listening if you're a she).

Looks like you can live stream the station here.

(Is it just me or do The Professor and The MacYapper look enough alike to be brothers?)

The More Things Change....

From Editor and Publisher:

As widely noted in the press, TV and on the Web in the past 24 hours, Karl Rove stole the show at this year's gathering of the Radio and Television Correspondents Association in Washington D.C. with his attempt at rapping, hipping and hopping. President Bush seemed content to avoid controversy, which is just as well, considering what happened at the same dinner gala in March, 2004 -- a low point during his term in office and for the media.

Since Bush's "joke" about not finding WMD, an additional 2700 Americans have died in Iraq.

I'm glad they're still finding things funny at the White House.

While you're pondering the complete lack of humanity at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, take a look at this. I found it at youtube.




Have a good morning, Pittsburgh

March 29, 2007

Bush Vs. Saint Vincent

As you probably have heard, our preznit will be speaking at the Saint Vincent College Commencement Ceremonies on May 11, 2007.

The following link is to an Open Letter to President Bush protesting his visit because, as they put it, not only are his values at odds with Catholic values, his values are at odds with universal values of decency.

If you know anyone who is specifically a donor, teacher, staff, faculty, student or alumni, please forward it to them and ask them to sign it.

This is only meant for those who have an actual association with Saint Vincent College so please do not sign it unless you qualify.

LINK: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/svc/index.html

One Political Junkie in the Air!

Set your calendars, 2PJ fans!

I'll be on Lynn Cullen's show next Tuesday at 11am (1360 WPTT).

Lynn's taking the day off and so her producer, Matt Pritt, will be behind the microphone.

I have no idea what's going on between 9 and 11, but I'll be on at 11.

Potter's Interview With Peduto

It's an odd thing about the City Paper. It hits the streets on Wednesdays, but it hits the web a day later - on Thursdays. I've been told that it has something to do with the complex nature of alternative media marketing, but I really think it has more to do with some little known aspect of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity.

I did a little research into this and while I won't bore you with all the mathematical details, I will say that it turns out that under some specific circumstances a unique time-dilation occurs and what we think are two separate events separated by 24 hours are really the same event in 4D spacetime. Kind of like how everything happens in Pittbsurgh 10 years later than in the rest of civilization.

In any event, Potter's got his interview with Peduto posted.

So now there are three by my count (are there more? let me know). There's mine, there's the OPJ's transcription of Fred Honsberger's, and now Potters.

I was struck, when reading Potter's interview, at how much of Peduto's rhetorical devices overlapped in my interview. I recognized a few similar figures of speech - and it looks like Peduto's ad-lib lines were well rehearsed.

There were "three critical issues; the budget, economic development, and neighborhood revitalization." There was the part about being "Luke's best friend" (a metaphor, no doubt) and about how if he continued his campaign, it would "guarantee" a 6 year term for Ravenstal, or "destroy the reform movement" in the city. And so on.

The big example, though, was "the perfect storm".

A source in the P-G tells me that they got roughly the same "spiel" (my source's word - it's yiddish, doncha know, though my source isn't) when Peduto talked to the P-G's editorial board.

My source, I gotta say, is a real mensch. I, on the other hand, sit on my tuches and kibitz on this blog. Mishuggah, I guess.

Back to Peduto - I'm not sure whether I'm (further) disappointed about all this. It might just be that's the way politicans do their jobs. They plan out a set of rhetorical schemes, and stick to them no matter who's asking the questions. That's probably it and I'm just being a schmuck. (Or is that a putz? How would I know? I can be such a schlemiel at times.)

Indeed all this really shows is that Bill Peduto was certainly on message when he talked to the news and blog outlets.

Oy, so much yiddish. I'm schvitzing.

March 28, 2007

There's a new blog in town!

Much like the Lie Like Luke blog, this one also has a specific focus.

Its mission?

To get voters to write in "Bill Peduto" for Mayor in the May primary:

http://writeinbillpeduto.com

Can Bill Peduto win with a write-in vote in May?

Of course not!

But, it would be funny, say, if he got two or three thousand votes as that's all Luke Ravenstahl got to get where he is now.

And don't forget, the new machines make it easy to write in a candidate.

The Heat Is On

AG Gonzales is beginning to feel the heat.

Check this out. He's at a press conference to discuss a policy to protect children from internet predators - a press conference sheduled to last 15 minutes.

He described the policy initiative for about one minute and then took some questions. After three questions on the US Attorney firings, he walked off.

There's a video attached to the news piece.

On My Name

I won't spend more than 5 sentences on this.

The name is pronounced "Day-voh" not "Davey-voh."

Twice in the past week I was approached by two different people (and you know who you are!) who each asked me, "Hey, are you Davey-voh?"

It's "Dayvoe." It's pronounced just like it's spelled - y'know, like "Wojciehowicz."

Go buy yourself a cookie if you got that last TVLand reference.

Andrew Sullivan on the US Attorney Scandal

Trying to sail out again into National News...

Here's what Andrew Sullivan has to say about the ever-expanding US Attorney scandal:
The central question is whether the Bush administration has used the U.S. Attorneys as a systematic weapon in targeting the opposition party, rather than rooting out corruption and malfeasance wherever it appears. The natural inference from the evidence so far - and the conflicting stories from the administration - is that the eight fired attorneys were not being partisan enough.
He links to that statistical showing the evidence of unbalanced prosecutions, but adds that the inbalance occurs at the local level, below the radar of the national press. Calls it "classic Rove."

March 27, 2007

Brief Announcement

Along with Agent Ska, I'll be speaking tonight at the Sierra Club in Oakland on blogging. It's called "Techno Tuesday" or something like that. Agent Ska described it this way:
The Sierra Club is having a "Techno Tuesday" this upcoming Tuesday, March 27th from 6-8:30. We (Dayvoe and I) will be talkin politics, technology, blogging, vlogging, and heck, maybe even the environment.
Should be an interesting time.

9/11 Remains Used to Fill Potholes

9/11 Remains Used to Fill Potholes.

Yeah, you heard that right.

Shakes has the full story here if you can stomach it.

Just a reminder that this happened under presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani's watch.

Sick.

Another Illuminating Interview

Last Thursday, Bill Peduto appeared on Fred Honsberger's KDKA Radio show. I found the Councilman's remarks on why he left the race to be very illuminating and I promised in the comments section of this post over at The People's Republic of Pittsburgh to post a rough transcript of the most relevant parts here at 2pj. Many of the same points were made by Peduto in David's interview with him which can be found here.

You can still listen to the KDKA interview here.
"Peduto Refuses to Play Dirty Politics" KDKA Radio, 2/22/07

FH: I remember having you on the show and asking you if McIntire was doing you any favors and you said, 'No.'

BP: People were saying that I was behind the NY thing.

Everything that I did just by being in this race raised my negatives. Just by being in this race, I raised my negatives.

If I were to go out and hold a press conference and say I found a plan to hire 100 more cops to be out in the neighborhoods to make them safer, people wouldn't like the plan just because it was me.

And, I've never had negatives. My negatives testing for internal polling were never higher than 12 -- they are triple that now and it's not because of anything that I've done, it's because I'm running against Luke.

His popularity is through the roof and it''s all based on image.

There's no issues that you can go back to and point to and say, "OK, so you like him over Peduto because of them other than 'give him a chance.'"

FH: Not to rub salt in the wound, but the last line of the Post-Gazette editorial says, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going" and now that you're out questions are being raised over NY. Now that he has no opponent, he can say I'm not going to discuss that anymore.

BP: Yeah, but I'm not a pawn and that's what I think that the Post-Gazette is trying to say. Saying that Peduto has to go out there and be the sacrificial lamb for us. And you know what? The public wants Luke which they do and -- they got him -- and for me to go out there and destroy my own political career in order to make this a competitive fight by trying to destroy Luke; how is that beneficial to trying to reform Pittsburgh? I don't get that.

And, the Post-Gazette's written two articles that are substance on the issues and close to 50 to 100 other things that the Ravenstahl PR machine has put out. They've been able to...they had their opportunity to bring up the issues.

I heard there's a second editorial that said, "No more free pass." Well, guys, guess what? Too late. You got the guy that you helped to create and to blame it on me at this point is not only unfair, it's just plain wrong.

FH: A run as an independent -- too soon? Maybe wait 2009 to have something to run against...and it doesn't have to be about image hopefully.

BP: Exactly and maybe the Post-Gazette will ask some second questions. You've got a free college program but how are you gonna pay for it? To give 20 neighborhoods no taxes for property is that going to make the homeowners in this city whole or how are we going to be on hook pay for it?

You can't just put out press releases and expect them to be policy papers and unfortunately that's what the media has done. They've given Luke a free pass and no wonder. And, I'm not blaming the public. The public believes that good or bad or whatever in the mainstream media and that's what...where this campaign is now.

FH: This "gotcha journalism" which is pervasive nationally as well as locally. And, they really love doing it. Look we got it, look what we've done now. It really lacks substance and it's really shock value but it backfired this time, didn't it?

BP: And you know what? Shame on the Post-Gazette for choosing the charged words that they did with me because when this city's back was against the wall and the Post-Gazette was every single time, Luke took the other way, begging City Council to do the right thing. Every time, every single time, I did. And, almost every single time Luke took the other way. And, they know that, and the editorial board knows that, and maybe they're hurt and maybe they thought there's really an opportunity to get the issues presented that are important.

But I'll tell you what Fred, there's no traction at all with those issues. Those are the issues that I care about. The issues to reform this city and a May 15th primary not only would have destroyed me, but may have destroyed the reform movement in this city and I wasn't going to take that chance to take both of us down with that.

FH: Is Luke Ravenstahl the Sanjaya of the mayoral primary race?

BP: Uh...

FH: If you know Sanjaya from "American Idol" -- looks good but...

BP: I've never watched the show.

[snip]

FH: Is this the fight against the machine? Is the machine really running the whole thing here?

BP: Yes, but it's not the David L. Lawrence machine. It's not the machine of the 1950s, or the Democratic Committee. The folks on the Committee are handed the crumbs. It's the folks that do the bond issue work without any competitive bidding or the contracts that go out for professional services -- the highway contracts and everything else. And, everyone knows it and they finance the campaigns and then they hold this region back. And, it's the developer that look for zoning variances over the counter and everything else.

This city needs to be completely clean. It needs to be started over and that's not what the public wants right now. The public wants is to "give this guy a chance."

FH: I hear what you're saying. You know, I admire you and I admire any politician that says going negative is not the way to win races.

BP: You know going negative can be not only a way to win a race, but to point out important differences. And, you'll see that in congressional races about Medicare and social security and...but, when it's about a person and issues like handcuffs, and airline flights, and whatever, it destroys the person who's putting it out there too.

FH: Councilman, I hope to hear form you. I know you're not going away.

BP: I'm not going away. November's still on the table. Obviously next year's still on the table...or 2009. And, building out a reform movement and bringing others on board is still ongoing. My staff is still on I'm in my campaign headquarters right now.

FH: Councilman, thank you. Councilman Bill Peduto.

Stolen Screen Capture


Saw this at Crooks and Liars. Nice to see Fox is still fair and balanced.

March 26, 2007

Peduto on Peduto

Last Wednesday at about 11 in the morning, Bill Peduto got a phone call from KDKA's political analyst Jon Delano. Delano, Peduto told me this evening, was calling to ask about some rumors he'd been hearing that morning - rumors that Peduto was withdrawing from the Mayoral race.

That day, Peduto was going to get a lot of phone calls like that. E-mails, too. He's still returning those calls to explain what he did last Wednesday and why he did it.

I imagine it's got to be tiring having the same 15 minute conversation over and over again. Like a bad Twilight Zone episode except Rod Serling's no where to be found and there are no Chevy commercials to break up the monotony.

I talked with Councilman Peduto this evening at his campaign headquarters in Shadyside. I'd seen the place a while ago, when it was colder outside and there were more people inside, but he says the place is still up and running and will be until at least May.

During the interview Peduto himself seemed a bit tired and as we talked he spent most of the time with his arms folded in front of him, his cell phone and PDA neatly squared in front of him. He seemed resigned to tell the whole story one more time.

He told me that by last Monday and Tuesday he realized he faced an unwinnable situation. If he ran the campaign he wanted to run, focussing on the city's budget, neighborhoods, and economic development, he was going to lose - and lose big. Mayor Ravenstahls poll numbers were just so overpowering that nothing (not the Heinz Field handcuffs nor the almost secret jet flights to NYC) could have budged them. The only way, Peduto said, to make the playing field a bit more level would have been to go negative. But even that wasn't much of an option. His negatives were already climbing and in some areas of the city, his negatives were even higher than his positives. And any mention of Ravehstahl's stumbles only raised Peduto's negatives - unbelievable, but true.

And that's not good place for a politician running for office to be in.

He believes that had he gone negative, he would have lost sizeable chunks of his own support - upwards of a 1/3 of his more idealistic Peduto supporters who want more than anything else a clean campaign.

So a loss it was to be and it would have been so overwhelming that it threatened to derail whatever movement for reform there is in Pittsburgh. And that, to Bill Peduto, was unacceptable.

Campaign Financing

I had to check all the bases. The campaign, Peduto said, was not in any dire financial need. He said they'd raised $200k and had commitments to $400k more. There's enough cash to run the office until May. So money wasn't a part of the story.

Ravenstahl's Poll Numbers

When asked why Raventahl's numbers were so high Peduto use the metaphor of a "perfect storm" made up of three parts.

The first was Ravehstah's "prolonged honeymoon period" with the media. Each misstep, he said, each minor incident where Peduto "called him on it" the media was silent or it parrotted the Mayor's oft-used charge that Peduto was "just being political." Mix that in with a still present sympathy for the Late Bob O'Connor (one that morphed into an emotional connection forthe voters between the late mayor and the current one) and add that all together with what Peduto called a "coalescing of the political machine" around the Ravenstahl administration. This machine is different from past machines - it's not the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, for instance - it's those businesses that thrive under the current state of city contracts and those people who depend on them. The defenders of the status quo.

Mix all those things together and you have what supports the Ravenstahl image. An image, Peduto reminded me, that came from a blank slate. No one knew who Ravenstahl was a few short months ago.

The idee fixe

Throughout the interview Peduto kept returning to one fixed idea. He said that while he understands how his supporters are hurt, in order to continue the fight for reform in this city, there had to be a tactical retreat. If not, then everything they'd fought for over the last 10 years could be erased Possibly losing it all just in order to finish the fight seems less than wise. One can lose with honor, but this time that wasn't an option.

As for Peduto's future, it's open. The only thing that was decided was the May 15th primary.

Shhh...Go back to sleep, my lovelies, nothing to see here.

While reading this excellent post over at The Burgh Report about Luke Ravenstahl's real record with Act 47, I came across a link to this Post-Gazette article by Rich Lord. In it, I read the most astonishing quotes regarding the Mayors non-race. First, there was this:
"I just thought we needed to take a collective breath and enjoy some stability," said state Sen. Jim Ferlo, an early supporter of Mr. Ravenstahl.
Spoken like a true Old Boy Back Room Pol who helps hold the strings that bind our puppet-like Mayor.

But the quote that truly blew my mind was this one by another puppet master, "The Boss":
"Maybe the city's in a position to look for some security and let things settle down a bit," said Mr. Onorato. "We don't have elections to distract us."
God forbid the public should be distracted by a little thing like an election!

I'm trying hard to think of a context in which an elected public official in a DEMOCRACY could make a statement like that and it be acceptable.

[thinking]

Nope.

Can't think of a one.

What's even more distressing is the thought that said public official challenged the petitions of his only opponent in his own race this May (Rick Swartz). The very fact that Onorato's Boys thought that they should challenge Swartz, who is a first time politician with almost no name recognition, shows how desperately and cravenly the Old Guard claws to stay in power.

Perhaps when Onorato was speaking of what a "distraction" elections are, he was thinking of his own.

(Hush now. Go back to sleep. Don't let any nasty little elections disturb your sweet dreams.)

The Big Lie Surfaces

I normally don't comment on Letters to the Editor, but when one comes from the Vice Chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, attention, as they say, must be paid.

In a somewhat overheated defense of USAttorney Mary Beth Buchanan, Dave Majernik (the above named Vice Chairman) offered up this:
The PG conveniently omitted that when Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he, in an unprecedented move, fired all 93 U.S. attorneys at once to appoint his own. And, I bet, at that time, the PG was not concerned about any political motives in the Clinton Justice Department.
Ah, the all-purpose defense of from the Right:
But When Clinton did it, the press was silent.
Turns out, of course, that Mr Majernik is straight up, 180 degrees wrong. From the McClatchy from 3/13/07) two weeks ago:
Mass firings of U.S. attorneys are fairly common when a new president takes office, but not in a second-term administration.
And from the Wall Street Journal a day later (3/14/07), it looks like what's "unprecendented" is the firing of so many US Attorneys midterm:
Although Bush and President Bill Clinton each dismissed nearly all U.S. attorneys upon taking office, legal experts and former prosecutors say the firing of a large number of prosecutors in the middle of a term appears to be unprecedented and threatens the independence of prosecutors.
And would you look at the opening of that paragraph?
"Although Bush and President Clinton each dismissed nearly all U.S. Attorneys..."
Mr Majernik seems to have made a convenient ommision of his own. I checked out the blurb on him at the RCAC. Seems to be out of date:
For the past six years, Dave has served as the Chair of the Plum Borough Republican Committee which has consistently delivered winning votes for Republican candidates despite almost a two to one Democrat (sic) registration advantage.
Isn't Plum Borough a part of the Pennsylvania 4th Congressional District? Wasn't that Melissa Hart's district? Didn't the Republicans lose that district in Novemner 2007?

Good work, Dave.

Another Lie from AG Gonzales

Via Muckraker, I found this from the McClatchy Papers:

Internal Bush administration e-mails suggest that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may have played a bigger role than he has acknowledged in the plan to fire several U.S. attorneys.

The e-mails, delivered to Congress Friday night, show that Gonzales attended an hourlong meeting on the firings on Nov. 27, 2006 - 10 days before seven U.S. attorneys were told to resign. The attorney general's participation in the session calls into question his assertion that he was essentially in the dark about the firings.

While it's a nice way of putting it, "calls into question" really is just a euphemism for "is more evidence to the AG's lack of credibility."

But I want everyone to notice when the e-mails were delivered: Friday night. The administration has to know how bad things look - they delivered the bad news on a Friday night, when no one is watching.

Here's the funny. The DoJ's spin on how why what's so obvious isn't what it seems:

A Justice Department spokesman said the latest disclosures don't contradict Gonzales' statements that he knew little about the firings.

"This meeting concerned the roll-out of the U.S. attorney plan. The information available to us does not indicate that there was discussion at this meeting about which U.S. attorneys should or should not be on the list," spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said.

And if it DID include the specific attorneys, I'm sure they would have said that since the discussion didn't include the date (or some other detail significant or otherwise) AG Gonzales didn't contradict his sworn testimony to Congress.

Muckraker has more:
McClatchy hits all the high points, the main one being, of course, that Alberto Gonzales sat in on a meeting about the firings on November 27 to review the firing plan. The firings occurred ten days later. During his "I take full responsibilty but I didn't know anything about it" press conference earlier this month, Gonzales said "I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on."
Cartainly calls into question his credibility.

It also highlights the lie of the DoJ's spin. Gonzales said he was not involved in any discussion, yet the DoJ says that since the meeting wasn't about specific US Attorneys, his being involved in a discussion isn't in fact the contradiction it appears to be.

As Groucho once said, "Who you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes?"

March 25, 2007

On The Shields Campaign

Recently, I got a chance to chat with Pittsburgh City Council President, Doug Shields. The first part of our dicussion can be found here.

I asked him how his own campaign (for City Controller)was going. He said it's "going very well." He's happy with how the endorsements are going, he's happy with his fundraising (a recent fundraiser raised $30K). While he was late to campaign, he's happy with his progress.

He said he was happy with his polling numbers and said they'd found out that out of the 400 households polled, amongst those who voted, he came in first with 26% (followed by his opponents polling at 20% and 15% respectively). The P-G, though, reported slightly different numbers here (Shields at 19% followed by his two opponents polling at 18% and 16% respectively). My guess is that Shields' phrase "amongst those who voted" skewed the numbers in his favor. But that's just a guess, I haven't been able to see the poll's internal numbers.

The thing that I had to ask, though, was about his current seat. See, Doug's the current City Council Member for District 5. If he wins the City Controller race, he'd have to resign the seat on City Council.

So far, it's a complicated picture. His opponent for the council seat, Theresa Colaizzi, dropped out of the race this past Friday - so he's running unopposed there. Shields has a number of opponents for the City Controller position. While he won the party's endorsement for his council seat, he came in third in the run for the endorsement for City Controller. See? Complicated.

I asked him what would be gained and what would be lost with the change, if he were to succeed? He explained that he'd be able to bring a lot more to the table as City Controller.

The Controller, he explained, is a check and balance on the local level. At the national level the government's checks and balances are found in the three branches of government; The Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Locally, Shields says the tripartite system of checks and balances are found in these three; Mayor's Office, City Council and the Controller.

The Controller's office is, he says, a "fair witness" for the people - someone to keep up with the numbers. It's a position that can challenge the mayor's office in ways the city council can't.

His first priority (and I need a ruling from the judges on my use of the phrase "first priority." Isn't that a redundancy? Is there really comething called a second priority? If something is a priority, doesn't it, by definition, come first? I really need to know.) is a reorganization of the Controller's office. The software is easily a decade old (He said they had to run Window's 96 to operate it).

After Act 47 (and Shields pointed to Act 47 as the point where Pittsburgh "went down the toilet.") the city needs to elect someone to keep track of the numbers.

He thinks he's just the guy for the job.

I'll be contacting his opponents to for their views on the race this week.

We could all use a laugh

I think that after last week we could all use a laugh or two, so I give you Colbert, Stewart and Maher (watch them quick before someone takes them down at YouTube):



Is Voting FOR The Supplemental The Same as Voting FOR The War?

Something caught my eye in the usually eye-catching City Paper.

For those of you who still don't know the CP, it's Pittsburgh's "Alternative" press and you can find it in all the better coffee shops and bus shelters in town. It's an eclectic mix of incisive progressive reporting and a healthy dose of straight/gay/bi-curious/transexual phone sex ads. Oh yea, the Macyapper has a column there, too.

Cuique suum, as I always say. (Ok, I'll help you out a little with that one).

Anyway, I found this article by Charlie Dietch. It begins:

U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle says he respects the work done in the past four years by anti-war protesters. But the vigil by protesters outside of his Downtown office has him a little puzzled.

From roughly 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, activists have been protesting Doyle's decision to vote in favor of a supplemental funding bill that provides money for the war in Iraq. But Doyle notes that the bill was crafted by staunch anti-war Congressman Jack Murtha, and while it does provide war funding, it also sets a September 2008 deadline to withdraw troops from Iraq.

From the protesters side:

But the protesters, who began their vigil March 14, say that despite Doyle's previous anti-war sentiments, a vote for the supplemental-funding bill is a vote for the war.

"If you oppose the war, than you have to oppose funding the war," says Ed Bortz, who stood in the cold, snow and sleet on Friday afternoon outside of Doyle's Ross Street office. On this bitterly cold day, just three protesters remained. But activist Elizabeth Donohoe says their numbers have been as high as a dozen.

On the one hand, I can see the protesters point - ANY money spent for dubya's war, is (and this is not even a tautaulogy) being spent for dubya's war. No question about that.

But this is where the political process comes in. And it's probably the thing that most disgusts a lot of people about politics - the need for compromise.

Had the House progressives, fresh from the November elections with a mandate to get us the hell out of Iraq, pushed too hard, the more conservative House Democrats, who were also just re-elected, but possibly with a different mandate, would have balked.

The result? The spending bill that would have made it through the House would have been far more dubya friendly, with no time table. And remember, as of 3/15/07 most Americans favor a witdrawal by fall, 2008.

So it's a compromise. For better or worse, that's the way it's done. You have to take the good with the bad. Some days you eat the bear, somedays the bear eats you. You can't always get what you want.

And so on.

March Coverage

The P-G:
Armed with another year's issues, Sgt. Millard and more than 1,000 people marched in slow procession through Oakland Saturday, marking the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War while demanding the end of combat operations and an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops.
But take a look at this:
As the marchers snaked their way down from the hospital, past an unmarked silver Ford Crown Victoria with two men inside, one with a camera, they were greeted by frustrated commuters and the jubilant shouts of passers-by and the sometimes low and sometimes high-pitched honks of car horns.
Nice to see they're keeping tabs on the people out exercising their 1st Amendment rights.

KDKA (includes video):

Following the fourth anniversary the war in Iraq, hundreds turned out for an anti-war rally and protest in Oakland this afternoon.

The events were sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center and a number of organizations participated.

Following a march, protesters gathered between the Cathedral of Learning and the Pitt Student Union where speakers aired their frustration about the war.

Police and organizers say today's event was peaceful. One person was arrested but organizers tell KDKA the person taken into custody was not one of the protestors.

WTAE:

A crowd, stretching as long as a city block, took to the streets to deliver one message Saturday: to bring the troops home from Iraq.

Hundreds participated in a march and rally in Oakland. They walked down Fifth and Forbes avenues before holding a rally on Bigelow Boulevard near Pittsburgh's Cathedral Learning.

The Thomas Merton Center organized the protest.

For those who are curious (and I admit to being one of them), what's the story with that arrest? The P-G has some info:

In the midst of the speakers, a young man with an Afro wearing a tank-top and shorts, disrupted the proceedings when he decided to would be fine time to call speakers "heathens" while waving a Bible.

The gentleman was promptly arrested by police officers, whom he also called heathens, for disorderly conduct and managed to yell "I love you Mom" into a camera as he was being put in the back of a police cruiser.

Who knew there were so many heathens?

March 24, 2007

Snaps From Today's Anti War March

I'm still too ill to participate in something like this, but Dayvoe's on the job and taking snaps.

Here's a few that he's emailed me from the MARCH AGAINST THE WAR:









March 23, 2007

March Against the War -- Tomorrow!


WHAT: March Against the War with DfP
WHEN: Saturday, March 24, 2007
WHERE: Meet at 1896 Herron Hill Pumping Station DPW (4501 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213)

If you saw coverage of last weekend's anniversary marches against the War On Iraq in DC and other cities, you may have wondered where was Pittsburgh's march. Wonder no more. It's being held tomorrow.

The Thomas Merton Center Anti War Committee is planning a mass demonstration to commemorate the 4th anniversary of the start of the war.

At 1:30 pm on Saturday, March 24, the AWC will be sponsoring a permitted March and Rally starting at Schenley High school with a concluding rally on Bigelow Blvd. between Forbes and Fifth Ave.

Many groups are helping to sponsor this event. One of them is Democracy for Pittsburgh (DfP) -- a group to which I belong. Unfortunately, I'm still not well enough to participate tomorrow. But if you'd like to go and want to march with a great group of folks, you are all welcome to march behind the DfP banner (tell them one of the Junkies sent you!...Uh...Maybe, you'd better say "Maria" sent you).

Democracy for Pittsburgh will meet at 1:00 pm to get "Pumped Up" in front of the "1896 Herron Hill Pumping Station DPW" on Centre Ave between Dollar St. and N. Dithridge St. They will march the short distance to the rally at Schenley H.S. and then join the main march to the second rally at the Pitt campus.

For complete details (parking, buses, map, etc.), go to DfP's blog here.

For more information on the march & rally, go to The Thomas Merton Center's website here.

RSVP to march with DfP here or just show up!

If you come late and still want to march with DfP, just look for the big white banner with this logo on it:

Congressman Mike Doyle on Pork

I had a very nice chat last night with Congressman Mike Doyle where we discussed, among other things, the Supplemental bill making its way through The House.

Yes, the same Supplemental that Congressman Murphy erroneously complains about here.

He also said he was surprised when he heard the news about Bill Peduto withdrawing from the mayoral race (He added, "I like Bill, he's a good guy. We've worked together on a number of projects.")

Anyway, he said that despite the news and the complaints from the rightwing (see the Murphy posting above), there's nothing new about attaching new spending initiatives onto Supplemental Appropriations bills. He explained that by definition supplemental appropriations are for things that you couldn't have planned for. Supplementals are for the unforseen stuff that couldn't make it (because it was "unforseen") into the routine budgetary process.

Here's what it says at the Wikipedia on the House Budget Committee:
The committee also reviews supplemental budget requests submitted by the President, which cover items which for one reason or another were not included in the original budget request, usually for emergency spending.
And on the Senate side:
The committee also reviews supplemental spending bills (covering unforseen or emergency expenses not previously budgeted).
So right or wrong, that's the way things have gone. He said that nothing novel was going on - a Supplemental was being forged to gain the most support, the most votes. But the buying of votes? Not happenning.

As of last night, while he said it was "still up in the air," he was optimistic the bill would pass. Indeed the AP is reporting this morning that the House Dems are confident it will pass. Doyle said it looks like there'd be a few Republicans voting for the bill - and if it's obvious the bill is going to pass without their votes, a few more Republicans will vote for it.

Yea, I know - that's confusing. The thing is those Republicans don't want to look like it was their votes that pushed it over the top. But if it's passed anyway, they're safe to vote for it.

In Today's P-G

Post-Gazette columnist (and Editorial Board member) Tony Norman explains some things.

I'll leave it to y'inz to read it for yourselves.

March 22, 2007

Congressman Tim Murphy - on Pork

Recently I heard our favorite evidence taker-baker, Congressman Tim Murphy on one of the many conservative radio talk shows here in the Burgh.

He was complaining with the host about the current "Supplemental" making its way through the US House of Representatives. Complaining about the pork that's been added to the bill that just supposed to be supporting our troops in Iraq.

He and the host agreed: The contemptable politcs of it all! How dare the Democrat party play politics with the troops!

How indeed.

Ladies and gentlemen, I turn your attention to a previous supplemental bill, HR 1268 - Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005.

On 3/16/05, the bill passed the House by a vote of 388-43.

You'll notice that our friend Congressman Murphy is listed with the "yeas."

During his recent radio appearance (can a person really make an appearance on the radio??) Congressman Murphy was complaining, for example, about the milk subsidies that were tacked onto the Supplemental.

Yet in 2005 he voted for a Supplemental that included this:
SEC. 5104. The funds made available in section 786 of title VII of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005 as contained in division A of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 (Public Law 108-447) may be applied to accounts of Alaska dairy farmers owed to the Secretary of Agriculture.
There were also provisions for off-channel sanctuaries for the Silvery Minnow:

SEC. 6014. The Secretary of the Interior is authorized to perform such analyses and studies as needed to determine the viability of establishing an off-channel sanctuary for the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow in the Middle Rio Grande Valley. In conducting these studies, the Secretary shall take into consideration:

(1) providing off-channel, naturalistic habitat conditions for propagation, recruitment, and maintenance of Rio Grande silvery minnows; and
(2) minimizing the need for acquiring water or water rights to operate the sanctuary.

If the Secretary determines the project to be viable, the Secretary is further authorized to design and construct the sanctuary and to thereafter operate and maintain the sanctuary. The Secretary may enter into grant agreements, cooperative agreements, financial assistance agreements, interagency agreements, and contracts with Federal and non-Federal entities to carry out the purposes of this Act.

And, doncha know it, provisions for the an Information Center in Yellowstone National Park:
SEC. 6032. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the National Park Service is authorized to expend appropriated funds for the construction, operations and maintenance of an expansion to the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center to be constructed for visitors to, and administration of, Yellowstone National Park.
Don't get me wrong. The issue here is not whether any of these are important. That is a completely separate question (and worthwhile, too!). The point is that Congressman Murphy voted for the pork then, and he's protesting the pork now. The Republicans were in charge then. The Democrats are in charge now.

Who's playing politics, Congressman?

City Council President Doug Shields

On Wednesday of this week, I was lucky enough to get an interview with Pittsburgh City Council President Doug Shields. It was a rushed, last minute thing. Selena, Shield's Chief of Staff, told me he had a thing to do at 5:30 and as the earliest I could get over there was 5, I knew it was sure to be a quick interview. One that I was lucky to get, being as I am an humble unpaid lowly blogger scribe.

As I made my way through the City-County building's security (my belt-buckle always beeps the metal detector) up to the fifth floor, where both the Mayor's office and the council chambers reside, I worked and reworked how I would play it. I knew that Shields is a very approachable guy, a teensy bit eccentric, but that's not a bad thing at all. Furthermore, he loves to talk. That being the case, I figured I'd just drop a few questions on him and let the interview run it's own course.

I'm not Mike Wallace, you know.

I made it to the inner sactum, the room smelled faintly of Fabrize and there was an empty cigarette box on his almost messy desk. Not saying those things are connected, just that I noticed them at the same time.

We all shook hands and Shields hung up my jacket in the closet (inside out, by the way, not that he noticed) and we got down to business. Turned out, the conversation was much longer than I could have hoped for. We had a lengthy conversation about his campaign for City Controller (which I'll write up separately).

But first things first I asked, "What the heck happened today?"

And I got another lesson in the realities of city-level politics.

Shields pointed out repeatedly how difficult a mayoral candidacy is - especially for someone challenging an incumbent. A mayoral campaign is "one long day after another. There's never enough time and time moves slowly. It's a paradox"

He said that when he was Bob O'Connor's Chief of Staff, he was involved in a number of losing efforts at running for mayor. First time out in 1997 they came within 12 percentage points. Second time out in 2001, they lost by just 699 votes. A swing of little more than 350 votes would have won them the Mayor's office.

Shields remarked at how that election win for Murphy was a pyrrhic (yea, it's a word - go look it up) victory. Had they won that election, instead of Murphy, they would have had to preside over with the bankruptcy of city finances that bubbled over in 2003.

"You do these things, you learn." He said. "I tip my hat to anyone who gets into a mayoral race."

On Peduto's Withdrawal Wednesday

Shields started by saying that Bill Peduto was behind in the race. So far behind that the first advice from someone in "Campaign 101" class would have been to go negative. "And Bill just didn't want to do that." he said.

What was missing in this election, he added, was a "dragon to slay" as there was little to campaign against. The media was focussed on what Shields regarded as the "distractions" of Heinz field handcuffs and midnight plane trips to NYC and not the issues Peduto wanted to address.

Shields added that had things progressed further down the road, Peduto might have done more damage to his reputation and career. But Bill's a good councilman who works for his constituency, he said.

On an Independent Run by Peduto

"I take it at face value that he's withdrawn from the race." Shields said. Though it's certainly the case that no politician would ever close a door/shut himself off from an option. Anything's possible, but as far as he's concerned, Peduto's out of the race.

But if there's a lesson to be learned from Shields' own history of running campaigns for Bob O'Connor (and I am not saying he offered this up as a lesson - this is my assessment), that Peduto's withdrawal yesterday may have saved him for a better run in the future. O'Connor lost in 2001 and then (and these are Shields' words) the city "went down the toilet in 2003"
under Mayor Murphy's watch. Perhaps the Heinz field handcuffs and latenight trips to NYC are only the tip of the iceberg for our young Luke.

Tomorrow is another day, Scarlett.

Tonight I'll start writing up Shields' assessment of his own campaign for Controller (here's a hint: he says it's going very well).

More P-G BS

The Post-Gazette rips Peduto a new one because he drops out of the race calling him every kind of crap, yet they are only "disappointed" in Ravenstahl when, as Mayor, he lies outright and throws all ethical considerations out the door with his acceptance of pricey "gifts" from interested parties.

Does anyone still wonder why Peduto left the race?!?

Oh Puhleeze!

You know, this editorial about Bill Peduto in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette might have made some sense if the P-G wasn't as guilty as the rest of the MSM of printing up lovely puff pieces about Luke Ravesnstahl instead of asking the tough questions all along.

It might have made some sense if they didn't print a columnist who laughed along while writing about Luke's habit of stealing all his ideas -- most of them from Peduto himself.

It might have made more sense if they didn't bury almost all real criticism of Luke Ravenstahl in their (online-only?) "Early Returns" blog-style column.

It might have made some sense if they hadn't tried to equate Ravenstahl's mailings of tens of thousands of pieces of what was essentially campaign literature at the public's expense with an anonymous pro Peduto YouTube homemade ad that had something like 200 hits in yet one more example of the MSM's attempts at something called "evenhandedness."

It might have made sense if they had been calling daily for debates before Luke managed to beat the clock.

It might have made some sense if they had referred to Lukey as a "neophyte mayor who got into office as a result of two accidents of fate" all along.

It might have made some damn sense if they had, or were going to, endorse Bill Peduto. Do you think that knowing how freakishly popular Lukey is with voters that they may not have wanted to chance upsetting their consumers readers? Will you now state for the record, P-G, that you would have endorsed Peduto if he had stayed in the race? No, of course you won't.

It might have made sense if it had been the P-G who broke Ravenstahl's FIRST BIG DOCUMENTED LIE -- the handcuffing by police incident -- instead of the blogs.

It might have made sense if the P-G, and not the Pittsburgh City Paper, had noted Ravenstahl's SECOND BIG DOCUMENTED LIE when he weaseled about which conversation he was denying when he conversed about birth control with ACDC members. That one established that Ravenstahl had a pattern of lying.

Heck, they didn't even break Ravenstahl's THIRD BIG DOCUMENTED LIE -- it was the Tribune-Review that broke the story about Luke's lies about his now infamous trip to NYC.

Even now, they pull their punches by writing, "and this at a moment when fresh evidence of Mr. Ravenstahl's youthful inexperience is also in the news" instead of writing, "and this at a moment when fresh evidence of Mr. Ravenstahl's pattern of lying is also in the news."

I'm sorry, Post-Gazette, but it isn't Mr. Bill Peduto's job to help Luke because you feel that Luke "needed this race -- to temper his political steel in the cauldron of experience."

Our City needs a tough, independent paper that asks the hard questions from day one and not one that only decides to pile on when everyone else decides it's OK to do so. Just maybe that "cowardice and failed responsibility" that you speak of is your own staring you back in the mirror.

What would be funny if the fate of this City wasn't important is that unlike those wild and crazy partisan blogs, you can with your artificial traditional editorial/news divide on the same day say in this "news analysis" piece that "That could set the stage for a renewed Peduto challenge, either in November or in 2009," while stating in your editorial piece that, "If Mr. Peduto comes back as an independent, he now risks being seen as calculating and too clever by half. Voters know the old adage: When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

You can in that same "news analysis" article admit that given our City's unfathomable "Give the kid a chance" attitude, Peduto was pretty much guaranteed to mar any chance for his future in this city and yet in your editorial, you blow that off because you deem that he owed it to stay in the race as a "community service." Wasn't it your duty in the interests of community service to "help define where it [Pittsburgh] wants to go and which issues it counts as important" as much if not more than Peduto's?

But you know, Post-Gazette, I think that I really know where you're coming from. It's finally sinking in that we are going to be stuck with this "neophyte mayor who got into office as a result of two accidents of fate" with all his "youthful inexperience" and that scares the bejesus out of you. So you lash out at Bill Peduto because you can't lash out at your readers the voters or any of your own complicity in where we stand right now.

Sucks, huh?

"We stayed at a friend of Kevin's house that evening"

He added that he didn't know the name of Kevin's friend.

Yeah, that's the kind of answer you'd expect from your kid when he's messed up and is trying to cover his tracks.

But it was actually the answer that the freakin' MAYOR OF PITTSBURGH, Luke Ravenstahl, gave to a major daily newspaper (the Post-Gazette).

Ravenstahl has previously stated that he doesn't know where he ate that night and that he didn't remember in what part of town he spent the night.

Early Alzheimer's? I think not.

The night in question is of course Luke's now infamous trip to NYC.

Lil Lukey also says that he's going to just refuse to give any more details about his little field trip.

And for those who will inevitably ask why any of this matters, it does:
Where the mayor slept, though, is relevant if the lodgings were owned or rented by a party with some interest in city business, and if the stay had monetary value. The city's code of conduct bars officials from taking gifts above nominal value from an "interested party," with some exceptions.
Read it and weep here.

March 21, 2007

A Black Day In Pittsburgh

Yes, Bill Peduto has dropped out of the race leaving Interim Mayor Luke Ravenstahl running completely unopposed in the May primary (no Republicans are running either).

I imagine I'll be writing in "NONE OF THE ABOVE" when I vote.

The "Boy Wonder" who slipped in as City Council President on a bad compromise and who landed as Interim Mayor because of the death of another, now will have a virtual coronation as Mayor.

I wanted to be mad at Bill Peduto. I wanted to say, "How can you abandon us to this?" but I really can't blame the guy.

Luke has been skating by on:
  • puff pieces in the local MSM (until just yesterday when he personally pissed off some reporters by once again lying to their faces);

  • national play as a novelty;

  • too many greedy, self-serving city workers and elected officials;

  • the approval of the same ACDC members who went to vote on endorsements in 2000 with Bush bumper stickers on their cars;

  • his willingness to act as a puppet for the Big Boys;

  • and the unwillingness of a large percentage of the electorate to actually pay attention to what things he's done wrong and what things he refuses to do right.
  • It's hard to run against a candidate about whom a KDKA TV report this afternoon said "had the blessings of Bob O'Connor." (Hell, I mean I know that television signals transmit through the air, but I guess I didn't realize they really did reach "the Heavens.")

    I'm sure the Luke apologists will tell me that we all should just get along now, move forward, etc., but these same people often said that I was critical of Luke Ravenstahl only because I was for Bill Peduto.

    Oh contraire!

    I have been critical of Ravenstahl because he is an awful choice for Mayor as his actions have provided reason after reason for legitimate criticism.

    So, if you think that I'm going to "play nice" now you are sadly mistaken.

    I can't.

    I live in this city.

    Hell, I was born in this city.

    I care about this city.

    And, there's another reason to care.

    Did you ever think, "Damn, wouldn't it have been great if someone could have stopped George W. Bush all the way back in Texas the first time he ran for something?" (Let's face it, kiddies, if this city had a viable Republican Party Luke and not a few other Dem pols would be Republicans.)

    Predictions about Ravenstahl's political future like this one which appeared in the Post-Gazette a couple of weeks ago scare the crap out of me:
    But he's a heavy favorite to be elected mayor in November, and, with his youth, likability quotient and the high name recognition he'll eventually have, it's not hard to see him in Congress some day or succeeding Onorato as governor
    Because I care -- because I heard more of the above sentiments today -- I have a message for Interim Mayor Luke Ravenstahl:
    "Every move you make
    Every vow you break
    Every smile you fake
    Every claim you stake
    I'll be watching you"

    ...And blogging on it here.

    (Remember, Luke, you'll never really know who might be packing a camera phone the next time you're at Pure Nightclub, now will you?)

    LIE LIKE LUKE

    Someone's been busy:



    Not only is there a LIE LIKE LUKE blog, there's LIE LIKE LUKE buttons and magnets for purchase!

    I may just have to buy some myself.

    If you too want to LIE LIKE LUKE, you might want to study Luke Ravenstahl's performance at this presser:

    What Agent Ska Says!

    Agent Ska speaks, you listen:

    Here and Here

    Rick Santorum - Expert on Geopolitics

    Did you know there are terrorist training camps in Hugo Chavez' Venezuela?

    So sayeth Rick Santorum.

    Take a listen to his interview with Fred Honsberger from the other day. About 5 1/2 minutes in he says
    There are Hezbollah training camps, yes terrorist training camps in Venezuela.
    This might be news to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison who had an Op-Ed recently in the Washington Times. In it she discusses a collaboration between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
    Left unchecked, Messrs. Ahmadinejad and Chavez could be the Khrushchev-Castro tandem of the early 21st century, funneling arms, money and propaganda to Latin America, and endangering that region's fragile democracies and volatile economies. If these two pariahs succeed, the next terrorist training camp could shift from the Middle East to America's doorstep.
    You'd think that an Op-ed in the Washington Times would be the perfect place to announce the existence of terrorist training camps in Venezuela. Yet all she says is "Left unchecked (they) could be..." and "If these two pariahs succeed, the next terrorist training camp could shift...to America's doorstep."

    Hardly the present tense that Rick Santorum was using.

    Or maybe Newt Gingrich, the twice-divorced, thrice married model of Republican Family Values and possible Presidential Candidate, writing recently at a website called Family Security Matters. Here's his warning about Iran and Venezuela:
    To take just two recent examples: Ahmadinejad of Iran has said “[t]o those who doubt, to those who ask is it possible, or those who do not believe, I say accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible.” He has also said that Israel should be “wiped off the map.” Chavez of Venezuela, just last week in a joint appearance with the Iranian leader in Latin America, announced a multi billion dollar fund to help countries willing to fight to end “American imperialism.”
    Again, wouldn't that have been the perfect place to drop the news that there are terrorist training camps actually in Venezuela? He's warning America's families about the coming terror threat, for gosh sakes. Is he witholding the information that Rick Santorum's been trying to get to the public?

    Indeed as recently as last December, here's what the then-Senator had to say on the Senate Floor about the camps:
    They have even closer relationships with the Islamic fascists in Iran. A recent congressional report found that Hezbollah may right now have established bases in Venezuela which have issued thousands of visas to people from places such as Cuba and the Middle East, possibly giving them passports to a vague United States border security.
    "...may right now..."?

    Here's the report. You'll note, however, that the report was "Prepared by the Majority Staff of the House Committee on Homeland Security" and released a month before the 2006 elections. So, of course, it's completely bias free.

    On page 32, it says:
    General James Hill, commander of U.S. Southern Command, has warned the UnitedStates faces a growing risk from both Middle Eastern terrorists relocating to LatinAmerica and terror groups originating in the region. General Hill said groups such as Hezbollah had established bases in Latin America. These groups are taking advantage of smuggling hotspots, such as the tri-border area of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, and Venezuela’s Margarita Island, to channel funds to terrorist groups around the world.118
    The "118" is a footnote going back to an article in The Financial Times of March 2003. And the bases referred to in the article are smuggling bases, not training camps.

    In an article published 4 years ago.

    So based on a partisan report prepared in the Republican controlled House of Representatives that footnotes a 4 year old article on terror groups smuggling/funding efforts (one that should have drawn the attention of the Bush administration at the time, were it true), the former Senator from Pennsylvania is able to declare that there are terror training camps in Venezuela.

    Strong strong argument, Rick. Real strong.

    Luke Ravenstahl's Big Bad Media Day

    You don't need to be a PR professional to know that it's not a good thing to have the following words and phrases associated with your name, administration, or campaign. Yet, in the past 24 hours, or so, this is what the mainstream media is saying about Pittsburgh Interim Mayor Luke Ravenstahl:
    From this news article:
    "...but he changed his story..."

    "...he did not know where he ate."

    "...he did not remember what part of town he spent the night."

    "This wasn't the first Ravenstahl denial to turn into an admission..."

    From this/this news article/s: [NOTE: article was updated later in the day.]
    "...but later changed his story"

    "...an ethical breach..."

    "...following a similar denial-turned admission..."

    "...credibility problem..."

    "These things more reinforce the questions people have about his maturity."

    "He ought to be taken out to the woodshed by his political supporters and reminded he's a public official."

    "...should not have lied about it..."

    "...could be considered a conflict of interest..."

    From this news article:
    "...an array of ethics questions touching Mr. Ravenstahl and his campaign for re-election."

    From this MSM reporter's blog:
    "The real story here is that the mayor lied."

    "He later said he couldn't even remember when they went to dinner."

    "Where the mayor messed up was not being up front..."

    "Mayor, the truth is is a wonderful thing. Please use it. You will find it takes a lot less work to be honest than to lie."

    From this other MSM reporter's blog:
    "...did you lie to to the Tribune-Review reporter when he asked you if you went to New York City? "

    "Is it using your public office to leverage political support?"

    "...when we questioned you about that, you weren't truthful about that. You weren't truthful to ( Tribune-Review reporter ) Mr. Boren about your trip to New York. What about your integrity? What does this say about your integrity? What do you say to the people of Pittsburgh about your integrity in light of these two situations?

    "You weren't honest with me..."

    "You weren't honest with Jeremy Boren."

    "Come on, you're splitting hairs."

    "But are you spitting hairs?"

    "Isn't that a bit too cozy..."

    "...you did not lie to the Tribune-Review?"

    "Are you worried about your credibility?"

    "Sienna Miller wasn't there?" [NOTE: Bringing up an association with Sienna Miller may only be a problem in Pittsburgh.]

    From this TV news report:
    "...in the middle of another controversy tonight."

    "...in a lot of hot water"

    "...lied to the Trib..."

    "...you did not lie to the Tribune Review?"

    "...wishes he had been more forthright..."

    "...handcuffing and detention at a Steelers game..." [NOTE: While a problem elsewhere, this phrase may be seen as a plus to some Pittsburghers.]

    From this TV news report:
    "...in hot water..."

    "...finally acknowledged..."

    "...later acknowledged the truth"

    "...sticky issues under city ethics code..."

    "...misrepresenting a trip to New York..."

    "...latest Ravenstahl problem..."

    From this opinion piece:
    "Time to call shenanigans on Luke Ravenstahl."

    "It's more polite than calling the Pittsburgh mayor deceitful, though that works equally well."

    "Ravenstahl seems to be cultivating a reputation for playing fast and loose with the truth."

    "Be on the lookout for the "Peduto or Pinocchio" billboards."

    From this editorial:
    "Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has a problem -- obfuscation"

    "...the Trib caught Ravenstahl in another tap dance."

    "So, why the obfuscation?"

    "And as he should be more worried -- now that he tried to hide his trip."

    From this cartoon:
    "PinLukeyo"

    From this/this news article/s: [NOTE: article was updated later in the day.]
    "...the mayor saw a networking opportunity rather than an ethical question."

    "...but does not keep a tally to ensure that he's complying with them." [city's limits on such gratuities]

    'The city's code of conduct says an elected official "shall not solicit or accept from an interested party ... anything of value..."'

    'The city's charter says an elected official can't "solicit or receive any compensation, gratuity or other thing for any act done in the course of public work. This section shall be broadly construed and strictly enforced."'

    "Ethics watchdogs said...wasn't a good move."

    "...taken a minimalist approach to reporting financial information required annually under the charter."

    This list is representative and is not exhaustive.

    Also, expect more today.

    March 20, 2007

    That was Fast

    A smart salute to the Admiral who posted this first:




    There are, though a couple of blatant falsehoods in the text.

    It says "He lied about going to New York City while ducking a meeting in the Hill District." This is complete falsehood. Luke Ravenstahl ducked that meeting way before lying about going to New York City.

    It then says "He only came clean once The Trib confronted him." But what's the big deal here? Lying to a reporter from the Trib is like lying to your wife about going to Hooters. Everyone does it, right? And when your wife confronts you about going to Hooters, all you need do is parse the words very carefully and it'll look like you were never there in the first place. If you do it well, it'll look like she's the one at fault. Simple.

    It then says "He lied about being arrested at Heinz Field." Another complete fabrication. He was not arrested at Heinz Field (if "arrested" means being handcuffed, hauled down to the Police Station, fingerprinted, photographed and being given one phone call to Jim Ecker). Instead, he was incapacitated by the Police officer he was drunkenly bad-mouthing, handcuffed and hauled off to a waiting room in Heinz Field, where he was let go. See? It's a completely different situation. And anyway, he was not asked about that second scenario - only the first. So he was completely honest when he denied it ever taking place.

    Right after that, it says "He only came clean once the bloggers confronted him."

    Bloggers? Aren't they the ones who can't be trusted because they just spew half-truths and lies to the public?

    I'm just asking.

    L. "Scooter" Ravenstahl: Third Documented Incident of Luke LYING

    Both The Burgh Report (here and here) and MacYapper have already blogged on the hot Tribune-Review story (and its many ramifications) wherein Luke Ravenstahl has been caught once again lying to the media -- which means he's also lying to John Q. Public.

    This time he lied about having missed a meeting with representatives of the Hill District because he was too busy partying all night in New York City. When caught in the lie, Luke claimed confusion because the reporter had referred to the trip as being Penguins-related and Luke says it had nothing to do with the Penguins. The trip was with the team's co-owner, Ron Burkle, and it occurred right after announcing a $290 million deal to build a new arena for the Penguins.

    The Trib story reminds folks that this isn't Luke's first lie to us:
    This wasn't the first Ravenstahl denial to turn into an admission during his 6 1/2 months in office.

    On Jan. 18, after denying it for months, he acknowledged that police handcuffed and detained him before a 2005 Steelers game at Heinz Field. He never was charged.
    KDKA radio personality Marty Griffin really hammered into Luke on his two documented instances of lying, BUT as I said when I called into Marty's show this morning, there is a THIRD DOCUMENTED INSTANCE.

    I have been meaning to comment on this March 8, 2007 story in the Pittsburgh City Paper (yeah, it's the one on Luke and his birth control issues). But forget about the birth control for a minute and concentrate on the LIE.

    Luke was asked about a private conversation he had on that subject and he denied having one. However, when the City Paper tracked down the woman who had a private conversation with him (Mary Litman), here's the official response:
    "There was no private conversation," he said. In a telephone call with City Paper two days after Ravenstahl was interviewed, Ravenstahl campaign manager Damon Andrews asserted that in fact, "The mayor recalls having spoken to" Litman. The private conversation the mayor was denying, Andrews says, was another conversation falsely rumored to have taken place at a 7th Ward meeting.
    Right! I wasn't lying because I was talking about this conversation, not that one.

    I wasn't lying because you asked me about a police incident on this date and it happened on that date.

    I wasn't lying because you asked me about a Penguins trip, not a campaign trip.

    It depends on what the meaning of "is" is. (Ooops, wrong politician.)

    Jesus, what a liar! (And, a bad one at that.)

    More on Mary Beth Buchanan

    On Saturday, I blogged on Andy Sheehan's story on KDKA about Mary Beth Buchanan. Sunday, the P-G had it's own story on her - written by Paula Reed Ward.

    While the KDKA piece had a far more accusatory tone, the P-G's at least tried to offer some balance. I'm just not sure it did much to help Buchanan's reputation. The piece paints her as extremely ambitious while being a true Bush team player:

    While the firing of eight U.S. attorneys across the country has focused attention on those who didn't get with the administration's program, Ms. Buchanan has proved herself to be a perfect fit.

    She's loyal, hard-working and smart.

    "She is very focused to the department first of all," said one current assistant U.S. attorney, who asked not to be named. "She's not independent, and I don't think she wants to be."

    Considering that the fired US Attorneys were let go (or asked to leave or whatever) for not being loyal enough, non-independence might not be the best course for Buchanan. But, as they say, the die is cast. The deal is set. You gotta dance with the one that brought ya.

    At the beginning of this month, I linked to a dailykos post that quoted something New York Times Columnist Paul Krugman wrote:
    The Gonzales Eight were fired because they wouldn’t go along with the Bush administration’s politicization of justice. But statistical evidence suggests that many other prosecutors decided to protect their jobs or further their careers by doing what the administration wanted them to do: harass Democrats while turning a blind eye to Republican malfeasance.
    The P-G piece notes that "statistical evidence" as well:

    A recently released study by two retired communication professors found that under the Bush administration, the Department of Justice has investigated elected Democratic officeholders and office seekers locally seven times more than their Republican counterparts.

    The authors looked at 375 federal criminal cases across the country that targeted public officials from 2001 to 2006.

    They found that of those, 298 defendants were Democrats; 67 were Republicans and 10 were independents.

    That number comes despite a statistic that shows that Democratic officeholders outnumber Republicans nationally by only 50 percent to 41 percent, said one of the authors, Donald C. Shields, a professor emeritus of communication at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

    And while it's true that there are far more Democrats in power in Allegheny County, Allegheny County is not the only county in Western PA - Mary Beth Buchanan's geographic area of responsibility.

    At the end of the KDKA piece Former Assistant US Attorney Tom Farrell calls for Buchanan's resignation. In today's P-G, he expands on that call:
    The Bush administration's efforts to use an obscure provision of the Patriot Act to replace U.S. attorneys it deemed too vigorous in investigating Republican officials, too slow in indicting Democratic public officials or too reluctant to investigate "voter fraud" -- a euphemism for attempting to suppress the minority vote -- caused me to re-think my opinion of the fairness of Western Pennsylvania's U.S. attorney, Mary Beth Buchanan. I began to wonder why all of the recent public-corruption investigations in our region have been of Democrats.
    She's "inflated law enforcement successes" by misclassifying routine immigration cases as "anti-terrorism" cases. She's repeated administration falsehoods in her defense of the USAPatriot Act, for instance falsely claiming (according to Farrell) that:
    ...until enactment of the Patriot Act, federal prosecutors could not obtain emergency wiretaps to prevent imminent terrorist attacks; to the contrary, a 1995 Justice Department bulletin instructed prosecutors like me and Ms. Buchanan how the pre-Patriot law could be used to do just that.
    But all this regards what Buchanan has done - what has she left undone?

    Why apparently no investigation into Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's use of government office staff to support his campaign -- which is not unlike what happened in the Allegheny County sheriff's office? Ms. Buchanan also left to local authorities the prosecution of Republican state Rep. Jeff Habay after similar accusations arose.

    And what of ex-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Ms. Buchanan's political sponsor? He misrepresented his family's residency in order to obtain state-funded cyber schooling for his children. Yet there appears to have been no investigation. I fear the worst.

    Lil Ricky was her sponsor? I fear the worst, too.

    Farrell has great faith in the staff over there, just not in the US Attorney herself. The US Attorney's office must be beyond reproach, he said. If it isn't, the trust among the faithful must be restored.

    Mary Beth Buchanan must resign.

    March 19, 2007

    The War On Iraq

    After four years:
  • No WMDs found

  • A fractured Iraqi infrastructure and economy

  • Tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead/wounded (we don't do body counts)

  • A civil war started

  • A weakened, overextended US Military

  • Tens of thousands of US Troops injured

  • 3,000+ US Troops dead

  • A terrorist training ground created

  • Loss of US credibility and respect around the world

  • A damaged US Constitution

  • IMPEACH BUSH AND CHENEY