Prosecute the torture.

April 30, 2007

Frank Rich and the White House Correspondent's Dinner

Via Editor and Publisher:
Tucked inside Frank Rich's Sunday column in the New York Times is indication that the newspaper will no longer attend the annual White House Correspondents Association dinners in Washington, which he calls "a crystallization of the press's failures in the post-9/11 era." He writes that the event "illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows."
Luckily, the full column can be found here.

But Rich had much more to say than merely to announce the Times' withdrawal from the WHCA dinner. After setting the stage for saying that the public has lost faith in the profession of journalism, he writes:

That state of denial was center stage at the correspondents' dinner last year, when the invited entertainer, Stephen Colbert, "fell flat," as The Washington Post summed up the local consensus. To the astonishment of those in attendance, a funny thing happened outside the Beltway the morning after: the video of Mr. Colbert's performance became a national sensation. (Last week it was still No. 2 among audiobook downloads on iTunes.) Washington wisdom had it that Mr. Colbert bombed because he was rude to the president. His real sin was to be rude to the capital press corps, whom he caricatured as stenographers. Though most of the Washington audience failed to find the joke funny, Americans elsewhere, having paid a heavy price for the press's failure to challenge White House propaganda about Iraq, laughed until it hurt.

You'd think that l'affaire Colbert would have led to a little circumspection, but last Saturday's dinner was another humiliation. And not just because this year's entertainer, an apolitical nightclub has-been (Rich Little), was a ludicrously tone-deaf flop. More appalling - and symptomatic of the larger sycophancy - was the press's insidious role in President Bush's star turn at the event.

By the way, here's a transcript of the Colbert performance. Whatever happens to you today, please remember that reality has a well-known liberal bias.

Rich continues:
It's the practice on these occasions that the president do his own comic shtick, but this year Mr. Bush made a grand show of abstaining, saying that the killings at Virginia Tech precluded his being a "funny guy." Any civilian watching on TV could formulate the question left hanging by this pronouncement: Why did the killings in Iraq not preclude his being a "funny guy" at other press banquets we've watched on C-Span? At the equivalent Radio and Television Correspondents' Association gala three years ago, the president contributed an elaborate (and tasteless) comic sketch about his failed search for Saddam's W.M.D.
For those who don't remember, here's a transcript of the 2004 RTCA dinner speech. Rich was referring to the "comedy" bit where dubya looks for Saddam's WMD around the once proud White House. Pictures of him wandering around looking into drawers and the like were projected on a screen above him. Dubya then intoned to the audience of correspondents and their guests (who dutifully laughed and applauded):
Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.
And so funny, so respectful of the troops doncha think?

And lest you think Frank Rich's position on dubya a one time thing, check out what was in the New York Times the day before:
President Bush has skipped the funerals of the troops he sent to Iraq. He took his sweet time to get to Katrina-devastated New Orleans. But last week he raced to Virginia Tech with an alacrity not seen since he hustled from Crawford to Washington to sign a bill interfering in Terri Schiavo's end-of-life medical care. Mr. Bush assumes the role of mourner in chief on a selective basis, and, as usual with the decider, the decisive factor is politics. Let Walter Reed erupt in scandal, and he'll take six weeks to show his face - and on a Friday at that, to hide the story in the Saturday papers. The heinous slaughter in Blacksburg, Va., by contrast, was a rare opportunity for him to ostentatiously feel the pain of families whose suffering cannot be blamed on the administration.
Have a good morning, Pittsburgh.

Blogroll Updates

We've just added three newish local political blogs to our blogroll:
http://pistgazette.blogspot.com

http://threeriversfishing.blogspot.com

http://lielikeluke.blogspot.com
We've also added a new ad to the top of our right nav bar. It takes you to the following website:
http://www.findhabeas.com
This site is devoted to restoring Habeas Corpus to its rightful place in our Constitution and contains action items that you can do to help.

Please check out our new additions!

Buying the War

If you missed Bill Moyers' most excellent documentary Buying the War on PBS last week, I urge you to check it out online (you can watch it in its entirety here).

It tells the story of how the MSM got the run up to the War on Iraq so very wrong and how they were complicit in the web of lies told by the Bush Administration through a mixture of their own fear and indifference.

For example, Phil Donohue tells how after 9/11 his bosses at MSNBC demanded that his guests be 2 to 1 Republican to Democrat as they feared being accused of being unpatriotic.

You also get to see Tim Russert explain what a shame it was that none of the scientists who were saying at the time that the aluminum tubes in Iraq had nothing to do with nuclear bombs didn't call him to tell him this. (Apparently Timmy's phone can only receive calls and not make them.)

The program is particularly instructive when it plays parts of Colin Powell's televised address to the United Nations Security Council in February of 2003 where he argued in favor of military action against Saddam Hussein. One part that sticks in my mind is Powell stating ominously that Saddam had built a roof over a building which was under suspicion for weapons building activities without mentioning that UN inspectors were in that building and had installed video cameras there which operated 24/7.

[sigh]

The show would be completely depressing if it didn't also cover the efforts of reporters for the Knight Ridder media company (now The McClatchy Company) who were doing real journalism at the time and who give lie to the claim that everyone believed the same intelligence.

Watch it!

Never saw one of these before!

A week ago or so, I received something in the mail that I've never seen before lo these many years that I've been on this planet:

A check from a politician.

I had read that Bill Peduto said he would be returning unused funds from his abruptly ended mayoral campaign but I guess I thought that since I had donated fairly early that I wouldn't receive any refund. But, there it was, a check for $32.00 from People for Peduto along with an explanation of how the monies were distributed.

Nice!

April 29, 2007

Gee, Thanks Senator Durbin

Via Crooks and Liars.

I guess now we have an answer to the Right's talking point: Well some Senate Democrats thought Saddam had WMD, too. There they lying, too?

And the answer?

Well according to Dick Durbin, no, they were lied to.

Just like the rest of us.

Thanks Sentator Durbin. On the one hand, it's great to know the truth. On the other the news only comes 3,300+ American deaths too late.

Dan Onorato's Magic Act

No doubt, this time of year candidates running for office are bombarded with candidate questionnaires from all manner of community groups and PACs. Some may finding it a bit of a distraction, but along with forums and debates, these questionnaires are a good tool to use when groups make their endorsements -- and these same candidates aren't shy when it comes to touting who has endorsed them.

Occasionally, for whatever reason, a candidate will choose not to respond to a questionnaire, and more rarely, a candidate may choose not to respond to a particular question in a questionnaire leaving it blank.

What I haven't heard of before is a candidate disappearing both question and answer in a returned questionnaire as if the question had never been asked (or in hopes that no one would notice that it had been...).

But that is exactly what current Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato has done with the questionnaire submitted to him by the Steel City Stonewall Democrats (SCSD), a politically active GLBT (and friends) group.

You can see their questionnaire and candidate answers at http://www.steel-city.org.

If you scroll about 1/4 down the page, you can see Onorato's answers and see that a few questions are followed by "CANDIDATE DID NOT ANSWER QUESTION."

These questions include:

Discuss your thoughts on marriage equality for same-sex couples; while the position you seek may not directly affect this issue, it is important for us to understand your perspective.

CANDIDATE DID NOT ANSWER QUESTION

Over the past decade, government money has been used to promote “abstinence-only-until marriage” programs in schools. Even though same-sex couples still cannot legally marry in Pennsylvania, to qualify for government support, schools must teach that any sexual relationships outside of marriage is “likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.” Do you support or oppose abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula?

CANDIDATE DID NOT ANSWER QUESTION

Discuss your thoughts on government's role in shaping school curricula for sex education. Do you have any thoughts on the formation of gay-straight student alliances within the public school systems?

CANDIDATE DID NOT ANSWER QUESTION

Another equality issue confronting our country is the issue of abortion. Please discuss your position on abortion and any thoughts you have on the current abortion debate.

CANDIDATE DID NOT ANSWER QUESTION
I asked SCSD's Political Director about the missing answers and it was explained that Onorato had not simply left a blank space, but had deleted the questions themselves.

Yes, some of the most relevant questions to a GLBT group had been disappeared into thin air like some cheap trick in a magic act.

Some may find that presumptuous or arrogant, but then again, perhaps it's in keeping with someone who believes that elections themselves are nothing more than distractions (see here for full quote).

The Steel City Stonewall Democrats have tried to contact Onorato about the missing Q&A's but as of this writing, have yet to hear back from him.

Then again, perhaps I'm being too hard on Dan. I should stop and consider the culture that he's in.

It's a political culture where an elected public official (Len Bodack) can refuse all debates and be overheard complaining to his supporters that his opponent (Patrick Dowd) is "trying to steal the food from my kids' mouths." And, where another officeholder (Ravenstahl) made an art form out of avoiding debates and who is running on the legacy of his predecessor after having kicked out most of the staff of that same predecessor.

It is so very Pittsburgh.

It is so very sad.

Unless you hold them accountable.


(You can see Dan's opponent's answers here and learn more about Rick Swartz here).

Jack Kelly - April 29, 2007

Is there someone at the P-G who can get Jack Kelly back on his meds? If today's column is any indication, his grasp of reality is tenuous at best.

I'm almost tempted to go paragraph by paragraph to point out the spin, but I'll just touch on a few highpoints of his latest. Paragraph 3:
It's remarkable that Democrats, as a matter of policy, are siding with America's enemies in time of war. It didn't work so well for them when they did that during the Civil War. And it is questionable political strategy to make a swift retreat from Iraq the centerpiece of their legislative agenda. But more remarkable is how clumsily Democrats are executing the strategy they've chosen.
His first sentence tells you everything you need to know about J-Kel's political point of view. With polls showing a majority of Americans siding with the Democrats in Congress on Iraq Jack Kelly still insists on the tired old rhetoric of "Democrats siding with America's enemies in time of war."

Question for Jack: doesn't that make a majority of Americans "siding with the enemy" too? How do you intend to deal with all those traitors, Jack?

But his next sentence is surely perplexing. Just who were "America's enemies" during the Civil War? That would be The Confederacy, I guess. So here's the message straight from Jack Kelly to every person who's with a Confederate flag draped some where on his or her property: You're bad Americans. You're supporting one of America's enemies - albeit a really old one.

He then quotes a blogger:
"If I were George Bush right about now, I'd wrap my arms around Harry Reid and give him a great big kiss on the cheek," said Web logger Rick Moran. "And I might even consider sending Speaker Pelosi a dozen roses."
If you're curious, this is the blog post from which Kelly scored that quotation. I am assuming Moran's being ironic when he calls the blog :The Right Wing Nut House." Anyway, here's the entire paragraph:
If I were George Bush right about now, I’d wrap my arms around Harry Reid and give him a great big kiss on the cheek. And I might even consider sending Speaker Pelosi a dozen roses, thanking her for playing her part to perfection in this Democratic Party defeatist extravaganza. For in truth, the Democrats are handing the President the one thing he desperately needed in order to maintain the surge, veto the Iraq supplemental with its timetables and withdrawal stipulations, and unite the Republicans as they haven’t been since the election last November; a political club with which to beat his opponents and re-energize support for the war among his base.
So it's going to, uh, help Bush when Congress does what the American people wants it to do? Even though it's not wat Bush wants? On Bizarro world, maybe.

The next paragraph:
Ms. Pelosi made a trip to Damascus early this month to meet with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. That trip was panned by the normally Democrat-friendly Washington Post, which said: "Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish." Ms. Pelosi also expressed a desire to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, until bad press forced a hasty retreat.
Let's start at the end and move backward. The first phrase of the last sentence:
Ms. Pelosi also expressed a desire to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...
Is, simply put, a lie. There's no other way to say it. Jack Kelly had to know that Pelosi never expressed any desire to meet with the Iranian President. To say otherwise is a lie.

Here's what happened. During the press conference after the trip to Syria a reporter asked Congressman Tom Lantos if they'd be interested in extending the diplomacy to Iran and here's how the San Francisco Chronicle reported it:
"Speaking just for myself, I would be ready to get on a plane tomorrow morning, because however objectionable, unfair and inaccurate many of (Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's) statements are, it is important that we have a dialogue with him,'' Lantos said. "Speaking for myself, I'm ready to go -- and knowing the speaker, I think that she might be.''
After pointing out how disgusted she was at some of the things Ahmadinejad has said, Pelosi said:
"But a person of Mr. Lantos' stature and personal experience is saying that -- even as a Holocaust survivor and even recognizing the outrageous statements of the president of Iran -- it's important to have dialogue. I think that speaks volumes.''
There's no mention - ever - of any desire to meet with Ahmadinejad. The closest she gets is saying "it's important to have dialogue." But even then, in the context of the paragraph, it's pretty easy to see that she's complimenting Lantos for saying "it's important to have dialogue."

Indeed on April 11, Pelosi's office declared pretty straightforward that she had no intention of travelling to Iran.

Where, Jack, is the desire to meet with Ahmadinejad? It's not there - never had been. And you're a liar for saying it was.

Now onto the first part of that paragraph. It references this editorial from the Washington Post. Too bad (and too bad for Jack's argument) it gets the basic premise wrong. As pointed out here, a newspaper in Israel reported before the trip about the message Pelosi was given. From Ha'aretz:

Following his visit to the forces in the field, a decision was made to publicly address the concerns of a possible deterioration with the Syrians, and to send a message that Israel has no intention of attacking Syria, nor is there any coordinated plan with the U.S. for a joint attack against Iran.

The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, is scheduled to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus today, and will deliver a message of calm from Israel.

Media Matters has the rest of the story. The point being that the Washington Post (and whether it's usually friendly to the DemocratIC Party is another question entirely) is the one who misrepresented the message given to Speaker Pelosi.

Onto the Harry Ried part of Kelly's column. He dutifully quotes David Broder about how Senator Reid is an embarrassment to the Democrats. It's the "the war is lost" talking point now being beaten to death by the Republicans. Just how offensive was that statement to the American people? Let's go back to the same poll above. In it, we find this clear-cut statement:
55 percent believe that victory in Iraq isn't possible.
See that? A majority agree with Reid that the war is lost. And that's embarrassing...how? Broder doesn't say. Neither does Kelly.

I found a curious paragraph in Broder's column. It's right before a paragraph that Kelly quotes. Broder writes:
Given the way the Constitution divides warmaking power between the president, as commander in chief, and Congress, as sole source of funds to support the armed services, it is essential that at some point Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi be able to negotiate with the White House to determine the course America will follow until a new president takes office.
Whah? You mean that the Congress actually has a say in how the war is to be run? Broder said it, Jack, so it must be true.

Another Sunday, another column of spin and misrepresentation (and an outright lie) from the former National Security Columnist of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

April 28, 2007

More Republican Family Values

Brian Ross is reporting:
Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation.
Tobias was previously the ambassador for the President's Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief and up until his resignation he was director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

As Josh Marshall points out that:
This is the guy in charge of America's international aid and development assistance to countries around the world.
And it gets better. More from Brian Ross:
On Thursday, Tobias told ABC News he had several times called the "Pamela Martin and Associates" escort service "to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage." Tobias, who is married, said there had been "no sex," and that recently he had been using another service "with Central Americans" to provide massages.
Good thing for Tobias there was "no sex" because when he was the "AIDS Czar", he emphasized faithfulness and abstinence over condom use to battle AIDS.

But really? No sex? Huh. Interesting. A guy calls an escort service for a "gal" to come over to his condo and he doesn't get any?

I do have a few questions: Why call an escort service for massages? Why not go to a certified massage therapist? And about the change from one service to another, how did the fact that the "gals" they were sending over were Central Americans impact the decision?

Josh Marshall again:

I'm glad this bozo is showing our best face to the world and clearing up any misunderstandings about exploiting people in the Third World.

I wonder if Bush looked into his heart and declared him to be a good man. Bush did, only a few days ago, praise him for leading:
America's monumental effort to confront and deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the continent of Africa
What nothing about AIDS among the "gals" who are from Central America?

April 27, 2007

The AP on Mary Beth Buchanan

Read it here.

With U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales under attack in Congress for firing eight U.S. attorneys, Buchanan has also come under scrutiny because of a Justice Department administrative post she held in 2005. A former top aide to Gonzales has said Buchanan was consulted in the firings, and now a House committee is seeking to interview her.

The controversy has exposed a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction with Buchanan in the legal community in Western Pennsylvania, where critics say she has devoted too much time pursuing headline-grabbing cases of sometimes minor importance and trying to please Washington

The AP adds some interesting, though more or less irrelevant, details of her past to the story:
Buchanan, 43, married her childhood sweetheart, became a mother at 17 and then divorced - not the typical launching pad for a legal career, especially for the daughter of a steelworker from Roscoe, population 848.
This is confusing to me. This darling of the Bush White House was married and pregnant by the time she was 17? How long did her first marriage last?

Now onto the local critics:

But [former U.S. Attorney Fred] Thieman and [former assistant U.S. attorney Thomas] Farrell say Buchanan's Washington posts have distracted from her job in Pittsburgh. That includes a stint as head of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys -- during which she was said to have been consulted on a list of fired prosecutors.

"Since 9/11 it appears that both the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys and the Attorney General's Advisory Committee have been used more to oversee U.S. attorneys than to assist them," Thieman said. "I think the current controversy speaks for itself."

And here's Buchanan's non-defense defense:
If defense attorneys aren't being critical, Buchanan responded, "then the U.S. attorney probably isn't doing their job."
Nothing about whether the charges are right or wrong - or why they'd be wrong if they were wrong.

But the most damning stuff is the non-supportive support she's getting from fellow Republicans:
Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, a former U.S. attorney under President Bush's father, would only say for the record: "I've known Mary Beth since before she became a lawyer. She certainly has worked hard to get where she is."
Yer doin' a hekuva job, Mary.

April 26, 2007

Truth

Senator Obama issued a statement today after both Houses of Congress passed the Iraq legislation. It read:

We are one signature away from ending the Iraq war. President Bush must listen to the will of the American people and sign this bill so that our troops can come home.
One signature.

If Bush signs the legislation, the troops can come home. If he vetoes it, they stay in Iraq.

It's as simple as that. One signature.

The useless dying can start to come to an end. This mistaken war we were lied and manipulated into can start to wind down. The troops can begin to come home. If he signs the legislation.

He promises to veto it. The killing and the dying and the maiming will continue.

UPDATE:

Debates Tonight!

A reminder that MSNBC will be broadcasting the first presidential debates tonight at 7:00 PM. There are eight Democrats participating.

I'm hoping that the debates will give New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's campaign a shot in the arm.

While I doubt that he can win the primary with such 900 pound gorillas as Hillary and Barack in the race (+ Edwards), I hope that he'd be a first choice for veep.

I know I was hoping that Kerry would pick him back in 2004.

Certainly no one can match his resume and his foreign policy experience, plus he's a governor of a Western state -- an area which is becoming increasingly important to Democrats. (And, I cant see how he'd not help the Latino vote.)

Help Tonight!

I had meant to write about this sooner but haven't been able to blog much lately.

There's a great group of people who could really use your help.

The League of Young Voters do much great work that you may not even be aware of as they have a few pacs -- some partisan and some not. They do lots of community work and youth empowerment in addition their political work.

Unfortunately, times are tough and they've lost a big chunk of their funding so they could really use your help.

They're holding their first ever fundraiser tonight:

Thursday, April 26, 2007
6:00 – 9:00 PM
207 Bailey Avenue, Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh, PA

Please RSVP with Kimberly at 412-728-2197 or e-mail The League office at rsvp@indyvoter.org .

If you can't make that, you can donate here.

You can see their slate of endorsed candidates at http://youthslate.blogspot.com

Learn more about The League at http://www.pittsburgh.indyvoter.org

One more thing:
While our "hot, hip YOUNG" Mayor is busy starting up yet one more commission to keep the young here, he's broken yet another promise (see here and here) to The League to show up at one of their candidate forums. That alone should make you want to donate to them. ;-)

More Bad Poll News on George W Bush and Iraq

Saw this on Olbermann last night. There's a new NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll out. (You can find the data here.) When asked:
In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job that George W. Bush is doing in handling the situation in Iraq?
Only 27% of those polled approved. A whopping 2/3 (66%) disapproved of how dubya's doing his job in Iraq.

And despite all of the propaganda, only 12% said think things have gotten better over there (49% said things have gotten worse, 37% said things are the same).

And here's a note to all those screeching about Senator Reid's "treasonous" statement that the war in Iraq is "lost". When asked:
Do you think the U.S. goal of achieving victory in Iraq is still possible, or not?
More than half (55%) agree with him. Does that make a majority of Americans traitors?

Indeed about the same percentage (56%) sided with the Democrats when asked:
When it comes to the debate on Iraq who do you agree with more: the Democrats in Congress, who say we should set a deadline for troop withdrawal from Iraq; OR, President Bush, who says we should NOT set a deadline for troop withdrawal from Iraq
Speaking of the man himself, do you think I need to add his overall approval ratings? Ok I think I will. (You can find the data here.) When asked:
In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job that George W. Bush is doing as president?"
Only 35% of those polled said they approved. 60% disapproved.

This is where I started. Olbermann reported last night about the poll in regards to the direction the nation is heading. When asked:
All in all, do you think things in the nation are generally headed in the right direction, or do you feel that things are off on the wrong track?"
Only 22% (that's barely more than 1 out of 5) think the country is headed in the right direction. 2/3, again, think it's headed in the wrong direction.

April 25, 2007

Olbermann's Special Comment - On Rudy Giuliani

Read it here.

Keith's basically excoriating "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani for claiming that a Republican president will keep us safer than a Democratic one. A highlight:

[O]n what imaginary track record does Mr. Giuliani base his boast?

Which party held the presidency on Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party held the mayoralty of New York on that date, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party assured New Yorkers that the air was safe and the remains of the dead recovered and not being used to fill potholes, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party wanted what the terrorists wanted — the postponement of elections — and to whose personal advantage would that have redounded, Mr. Giuliani?

Which mayor of New York was elected eight months after the first attack on the

World Trade Center, yet did not emphasize counter-terror in the same city for the next eight years, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party had proposed to turn over the Department of Homeland Security to Bernard Kerik, Mr. Giuliani?

Who wanted to ignore and hide Kerik’s organized crime allegations, Mr. Giuliani?

Who personally argued to the White House that Kerik need not be vetted, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party rode roughshod over Americans’ rights while braying that it was actually protecting them, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party took this country into the most utterly backwards, utterly counterproductive, utterly ruinous war in our history, Mr. Giuliani?

Which party has been in office as more Americans were killed in the pointless fields of Iraq than were killed in the consuming nightmare of 9/11, Mr. Giuliani?

Go read it.

Tillman & Lynch - More Administration Lies

Pat Tillman first. This is from CNN:
The last soldier to see Army Ranger Pat Tillman alive, Spc. Bryan O'Neal, told lawmakers that he was warned by superiors not to divulge -- especially to the Tillman family -- that a fellow soldier killed Tillman.
From the beginning, they were lying. And this from the Chicago Tribune (via the Seattle Times):
The brother of Pat Tillman bitterly accused the U.S. military Tuesday of deceiving the public and the family of the football-star-turned-Army-ranger to promote a story of heroism that suited its purposes.
Why? Kevin Tillman has a few ideas:
"Revealing that Pat's death was a fratricide would have been yet another political disaster in a month of political disasters," said Kevin Tillman, who gave up a minor-league baseball career to enlist with his older brother in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "So the truth needed to be suppressed."
So what was happening in April, 2004? The First Battle of Fallujah. By the end of that month there'd been reports (initially denied, of course) of the troops using White Phosporus. By the following November, it was pretty much established that the troops had used WP. From the BBC

"It was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants," spokesman Lt Col Barry Venable told the BBC - though not against civilians, he said.

The US had earlier said the substance - which can cause burning of the flesh - had been used only for illumination.

But when you're lobbing mortar shells of the stuff into a city. How can you tell what's an insurgent and what's an innocent? Know what it does?

White phosphorus is highly flammable and ignites on contact with oxygen. If the substance hits someone's body, it will burn until deprived of oxygen.

Globalsecurity.org, a defence website, says: "Phosphorus burns on the skin are deep and painful... These weapons are particularly nasty because white phosphorus continues to burn until it disappears... it could burn right down to the bone."

On the 11th of that month, the Iraq Governing Council had this to say about the battle:

"These operations were a mass punishment," Adnan Pachachi, of the Governing Council, told Al-Arabiya television. "It was not right to punish all the people of Fallujah, and we consider these operations by the Americans unacceptable and illegal."
Bad news all around. That's what was happenning in April, 2004.

Now on to Jessica Lynch. First the setup:
Jessica Lynch, an Army private who was captured in Iraq soon after the 2003 invasion, also testified about the early accounts depicting her as a "girl Rambo from the hills of West Virginia" who had emptied her gun as enemy soldiers closed in. In fact, she was captured without firing a shot.
And her response:
"The bottom line," Lynch said, "is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes and they don't need to be told elaborate lies."
I think I'll let that be the final word.

April 24, 2007

Call Tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 25th is National Call-In Day to Support the Freedom of Choice Act

Please call 202-224-3121 tomorrow.

Here's the coalition-based script:

"Please cosponsor the Freedom of Choice Act (H.R.1964/S.1173) to codify Roe v. Wade and guarantee the right to choose for future generations of women."
(Feel free to alter as needed.)

Phone calls are still the most effective way to get the attention of your members of Congress. If you know your Rep./Senators do not agree with you, please call anyway. You are registering your own convictions on the issue.

If you can't call, you can go to http://prochoiceaction.org/campaign/congress_foca_0407
and send an email to your members of Congress.

There's a link on this page where you can download a .PDF of the act.

*******************

Coalition Partners:

Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Advocates for Youth
Alliance for Justice
American Association of University Women
American Civil Liberties Union
Catholics for a Free Choice
Center for American Progress Action Fund
Choice USA
Feminist Majority
Law Students for Choice
Medical Students for Choice
NARAL Pro-Choice America
National Abortion Federation
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Women's Organizations
National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
National Organization for Women
National Women's Law Center
People for the American Way
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Reproductive Health Technologies Project
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States
Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective

NOTE: 1) Yeah, I do have something to say about the recent SCOTUS ruling. Hopefully, I'll be able to blog on that soon. 2) The above post is only slightly rewritten from an email I received from the DfP list -- Thanks, Joy.

"Left Out" on WRCT

The radio show was quite interesting. We chatted about politics, some local (Mayor Luke's various incompetences) and national (US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan).

I suspect that the station's signal didn't reach much past the CMU campus (such is the nature of college radio) but I hope that it was heard by some people over the web. The OPJ tells me she had to hear it on-line as the signal couldn't make it over the Mon river to the South Side. I've had trouble picking up 88.3 FM in Shadyside.

Dan and Robert are very interesting guys - here's Dan:

And here's Robert:

As you can see they sat across from each other tapping away on their laptops (both APPLES, btw) chatting on line with people listening in via the web.

My introduction to the guys began something like this: Before the show, I was talking with Robert about his appearance this past friday on OffQ. He said a few choice things about Mike Pintek (whom he called "Mike Pinhead") and Mike's defense of gun ownership. Dan then mentioned the three issues he'd like Democrats to drop; gun control, abortion and the death penalty. Robert overheard and interjected a healthy "To hell with you then!" They then began their pre-show discussion. It was all very interesting, but as I'm not a member of the Democratic party, I didn't really feel obliged to take sides.

And a few minutes later, the mikes were live and we started.

The rest, as they say, is radio history.

Back from the future

You may have been wondering why I haven't blogged much in the past week or so. As it turns out, I had the rare opportunity to take a peek into our future -- two years to be exact. Foregoing any thoughts of personal safety and expense, I jumped at the chance, but I have to say, little had really changed.

You're not allowed to bring anything back with you, but I did manage to slip one postcard past my time machine hosts and I present it here for you, dear readers:



As you can see, there has been one minor change: the name of our fair city. It's been changed to honor our fabulous Boy Wonder Mayor: Luke Ravenstahl.

Apparently, the name change caused little controversy.

Yes, Councilman Bill Peduto started to object during Council's vote but he was quickly shouted down by most of the rest of the members who had sponsored the bill.

To their credit, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did publish a strongly worded editorial decrying that the name should be "Lukesburgh" and not "Lukesburg." They demanded that the city keep it's cherished "h." Matt Hogue, Assistant Communications Director, first claimed that, "It's a non issue." Ravenstahl initially claimed that the "h" was there, but then said that the missing letter was merely a typo. As you can see from the postcard, the "h" won the day.

Dennis Regan -- hired back in early 2008 with the title of The Enforcer -- is the official in charge of ensuring that all governmental offices, private businesses and local citizens comply with the name change.

And, what was the reaction from the burghosphere? From what I could see, very few local political bloggers exist in 2009. Word has it that most bloggers became exhausted from cataloging Luke's many shenanigans and had simply dropped out.

That's pretty much it (except for a few primarily cosmetic changes that you can see from the postcard).

Oh, wait a minute.

There was one kind of weird thing that happened. I ran into someone who claimed to be a fellow time traveler, but he was from twenty years or so in the future. A big, muscle-bound guy with a German accent who kept mumbling something about needing to save the future from President Ravenstahl. Probably just a nut . . .

(Inspired by this article.)

Tom Delay - In Pittsburgh

I thought I detected a whiff of sulphur (or is that brimstone) on Monday. Tom Delay was in town talking to the Tribune Review.

Democratic leaders are acting like traitors by opposing the Iraq war, and President Bush must answer with a toughened stance, former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Monday.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "are getting very, very close to treason," DeLay said in a meeting with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

"We have people dying," he said. "Not just our soldiers, but innocent citizens dying in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hands of these evil people, and you have your elected leaders making these kinds of statements that embolden the enemy. It's unbelievable."

Treason? Really? His "logic" seems to be:
Disagreements with our leader emboldens our enemies
Emboldening our enemies is (by definition) treason
Therefore
Disagreeing with our leader is treason
I'm not sure the Founding Fathers would agree with such "logic." Tom (or at least his ghost writer on his blog) is among those who try to make the case that withdrawal somehow equals surrender:
For political reasons all their own, the Democrats seem anxious to declare defeat. In point of fact, whatever euphemism they use: strategic redeployment, phased withdrawal, tactical relocation – we should not be deluded as to their true meaning.
Even though according to a Fox "News" Poll a majority (61%) of the American people actually disagree with that position (check out question 34).

Does that make the majority of us traitors?

Speaking of which, things are getting interesting up in Vermont:

In a stunning reversal, the Vermont Senate approved a resolution early Friday morning calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

The vote makes the Senate the first state legislative body in the country to call for Bush's impeachment. At least nine other states have similar resolutions pending.The 16-9 vote urging the U.S. Congress to begin impeachment hearings came without debate.

The vote fell mostly along party lines, although three Democrats joined six Republicans in opposing it.

I wonder if The Hammer thinks the state of Vermont to be traitorous? Or would that just be The Senate up there? Or maybe just those 16 who voted for impeachment? But what of all of the people up there who agree? If those 16 in the Senate are traitors, surely their supporters are, too.

Right, Tom? Tom?

April 23, 2007

Announcement

I'll be on WRCT (88.3 on your FM dial) tomorrow night at 6pm. Robert Harper and Daniel Sleator host a show called "Left Out."

Looking forward to the discussion.

Mary Beth Buchanan Turns up AGAIN

Pamela Reed Ward reports today that:

The relationship between at least some of the eight fired U.S. attorneys and officials at the Department of Justice continued to be cordial almost to the day those attorneys received a phone call dismissing them.

Two of the terminated prosecutors said they had received positive feedback from their superiors as well as from Mary Beth Buchanan, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the former director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which helps put together teams that review U.S. attorneys.

We know already that she was consulted about which US Attorneys were to be fired. Now we know she gave positive feedback to at least two of the fired attorneys.

Ward has some details on how one attorney was canned:

"I was told the administration only had a short, two-year window of opportunity to put someone [new] in there. They wanted to take advantage of it," he said. The message, delivered by Michael Battle, who replaced Ms. Buchanan as director of the Executive Office, was: " 'You serve at the pleasure of the president. Your time is up, and you need to resign.' "

When he asked if his job performance had anything to do with his termination, Mr. Bogden said he was told that it never even entered into the equation.

When Mr. Cummins got the phone call from Mr. Battle notifying him of his termination, "I asked him if I did something wrong, and he said I hadn't."

That's why, when Justice Department officials started releasing information to the media that the firings were performance related, Mr. Cummins and Mr. Bogden were shocked and disappointed.

Lies. It all began with lies. You'd think these Republicans would at least be honest with their own appointees.

Over at the Trib, Jason Cato describes the rise of Buchanan's career. He points to her prosecutions of Tommy Chong (for selling bongs) and Extreme Associates (on obscenity charges). Both times, he adds, critics complained about wasted government resources and "government fiddling with constitutinal freedoms." At that point, Cato writes:
The Justice Department and Ashcroft praised both cases. Buchanan was rewarded with a string of lofty posts, one of which -- director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys -- has landed her at the forefront of a congressional investigation into a group firing of fellow Republican prosecutors.
Interesting how prosecuting bongs and porn curried favor with the Bush Administration. This dovetails nicely with something Ward's got. H. E. Cummings was one of the fired US Attorneys.

During her tenure as a U.S. attorney, she has been appointed to national positions three times and is currently serving as the acting director of the Office on Violence Against Women.

To get into those administrative roles, Mr. Cummins said, a person either had to be from a prominent district or put a lot of effort into being asked.

"There was definitely an inner circle of U.S. attorneys," Mr. Cummins said. "I don't think I ever was in it. Some people are more active in seeking out those opportunities."

So after snagging the EOUSA, the ever-loyal, "inner circle" Mary Beth Buchanan gives positive feedback to at least two US Attorneys while being consulted on their politically motivated dismissals. Nice.

But she's also pissed of a couple of "blindsided" Alaskan Senators. This from the Anchorage Daily News:
The state’s chief federal prosecutor, Pittsburgh native Nelson Cohen, owes his job to the U.S. attorney in his hometown, who succeeded in getting him the Anchorage post over Alaskans nominated by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens.
The way things normally go, when a US Attorney position opens up in a given state, the Senators from that state submit names to the Justice Department for consideration. This time? Uh-uh, nope. Wasn't handled that way. Cohen's one of the people whose "interim" job as a US Attorney was extended by that provision of the USPatriot Act. And while he says he wasn't aware of all the political forces that got him the gig,
...knew his boss, Buchanan, was well-connected, and it was she who told him about the opening in Alaska.

And it looks like her pulling some strings annoyed some people up there:

Stevens, himself a former federal prosecutor in Alaska, was enraged. “I am just
furious at the way the attorney general handled this,” he said at the time.
However the Anchorage Daily News is careful to add:
There are no claims that Cohen got his job here to help or hinder political prosecutions in Alaska, as is alleged in New Mexico, San Diego and other areas where U.S. attorneys were replaced. Pittsburgh Democrats who worked with him and defended clients against him described Cohen, a registered Republican, as a skilled career prosecutor who distanced himself from the Bush administration’s agenda.
Looks like it's the same MO for those loyal bushies. Little respect for honesty, Little respect for decency, and little respect even for Senators from their own party.

UPDATE: An astute reader puts things this way:
[Mary Beth Buchanan] is trapped in this situation: either she defends the competence of the fired USAttys, thereby undermining the Attorney General’s position, or she contradicts what she wrote as EOUSA director, or she concedes they were competent but politically incorrect.
Wise words.

April 22, 2007

Dubya's "Geraldo Moment"

Via Crooks and Liars.

On Friday, Keith Olbermann was talked to Paul Reikhoff, author of Chasing Ghosts: Failures and Facades in Iraq: A Soldier's Perspective and founder of the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. During the conversation Reikhoff said this:

One of the things that did happen today that concerned me was that during Bush's press conference he actually showed a graphic that showed 24 urban military outposts in downtown Baghdad. I would argue that showing that to the world and potentially to our enemy might compromise moral - might actually compromise operational security.

Our enemies aren't stupid. They can look at that and figure out a grid coordinate and try and drop mortars on those exact locations. I mean, this is like a Geraldo moment during the invasion when Geraldo started drawing troop operation movements in the sand. I mean, this is unprecedented in my experience and maybe I'm missing something, but this is a real worry and I wouldn't go throwing this out on the airwaves for everybody to see if I were the President.

This concerns me, too. This is from dubya's press conference from that day:

My point is, is that the American combat forces are not alone in the effort to secure the nation's capital. And just as important as the growing number of troops is their changing position in the city. I direct your attention to a map showing our troop presence around Baghdad late last year. This is how we were positioned. Most troops were at bases on the outskirts of the city. They would move into Baghdad to clear out neighborhoods during the day, and then they would return to their bases at night. The problem was that when our troops moved back to the bases, the extremists, the radicals, the killers moved back to the neighborhoods.

And we're changing. Part of our strategy change, part of the new mission in Baghdad is for American troops to live and work side by side with Iraqi forces at small neighborhood posts called joint security stations. You can see from this map, there are now more than two dozen joint security stations located throughout Baghdad; more are planned. From these stations, Iraqi and American forces work together to clear out and then secure neighborhoods -- all aimed at providing security for the people of Baghdad. If a heavy fight breaks out, our forces will step in, and Iraqi forces learn valuable skills from American troops; they'll fight shoulder to shoulder with the finest military every assembled.

I would supremely doubt that the bases dubya identified as being in place "late last year" have changed all that much. And even if they had, dubya's just given out "to the enemy" the exact location of more than two dozen security stations.

The security of those stations has to have been compromised. Reikhoff is right. The Iraqis aren't stupid. Giving out any intelligence on the location of the Army/Marine troops station in Baghdad is.

How many more servicemen will die because dubya wanted to shore up support for his war?

Sunday. Jack Kelly. Again.

My favorite right-wing nut case, Jack Kelly, missteps again. This time he's writing about the Virginia Tech massacre.

More precisely, he's writing about the media mishandling of the massacre. He makes some good points as he chastises the media for getting some of the facts wrong in the reporting. But then, for some unknown reason, he writes:
The trouble is there is very little hard information to report in the early hours of a crisis, certainly not enough to fill all that air time. So it is filled with rumor, much of it false, and speculation, much of it nonsense. Virtually everything reported initially during Hurricane Katrina, for instance -- especially about the alleged murders in the Superdome -- turned out to be false.
You'd think that a guy who'd gotten so much wrong on Katrina himself would steer clear of such an analogy. The mistakes in his first Katrina column were so big, he had to issue his own correction a week later:

I wrote "The levee broke Tuesday morning," referring to the 17th Street Levee, which was what was being reported at the time I wrote the column. In fact, the break occurred mid-morning Monday. And the Industrial Canal was breached on Monday morning as well.

I took the figure 2,000 for the buses available to Mayor Ray Nagin from a column written by another journalist without checking it myself. The actual figure is closer to 600.

Finally, I knew Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, but inexplicably wrote 2002. I regret the errors.

But note, even his corrections could have used some corrections. It was reported that the 17th Street Levee broke on August 29. In fact news of the levee breach reached the regional FEMA office at 8:30 am on August 29. Hardly "mid-morning." Unless he was writing his 9/11/05 column more than a week prior to its publication (which is doubtful), he can't be guilty of anything other than shoddy research himself.

Hey, I just noticed something. In our coverage of this (back in March, 2006) I quoted J-Kel as writing:

People who read the post below may wonder why I did not report on the good things the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard has done in Iraq. The reason is I've been fired as the national security writer. I've been forbidden to write news stories about national defense.

But he's still listed as "national security writer" on his P-G column. Anyone have any idea why? Drop me an e-mail. Confidentiality is assured.

But Jack, my man, if you gotta be more careful. If you're going to rant about how the media gets things wrong (even when they do) you have to make sure you don't shoot yourself in the foot by pointing the Google-armed among your readers (myself included) to some of your own bad fact-checking.

Next thing you'll be saying that the WMD were flown out of Iraq o Syria and so really Saddam DID have them after all!

No wait, you already said that.

UPDATE: Got an explanation from the P-G today. John Allison (he's an editor over there) wrote to me to say this is just a matter of institutional inertia. They've been IDing Kelly as simply a columnist sometime last year however the "national security" tag that's used on-line has, according to Allison, to be fixed "in the bowels of the system." He said he was looking to fix it today. Given how tight things are over there - sources tell me stories of staff shortages with the people left working there doing multiple jobs - it's not that difficult to believe.

April 20, 2007

Rick Swartz on NightTalk @ 8 Tonight

Rick Swartz, Democratic candidate for Allegheny County Chief Executive in the May primary, will be on PCNC's "NightTalk" Friday "Get to the Point" panel discussion this evening.

The show airs from 8:00 to 9:00 PM.

http://www.citizensforswartz.com

So How Badly DID Gonzales Do?

The next-day reaction to AG Alberto Gonzales runs (as they say) the gamut of A-to-B. A being bad and B being way bad.

From the AP:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales came to Capitol Hill with only one mission: to placate Republican and Democratic senators dissatisfied with his account of how eight federal prosecutors were fired.

Apparently, he failed. For the first time, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee broke ranks and said it might be best if Gonzales stepped down.

Byron York at the National Review (in a piece titled "Alberto Gonzales' Disastrous Day"):

Judging by his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, there are three questions about the U.S. attorneys mess that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wants answered: What did I know? When did I know it? And why did I fire those U.S. attorneys?

As the day dragged on, it became clear — painfully clear to anyone who supports Gonzales — that the attorney general didn’t know the answers. Much of the time, he explained, he didn’t really know much at all — he was just doing what his senior staff recommended he do

And that's York being nice.

The New York Times editorial board:

If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had gone to the Senate yesterday to convince the world that he ought to be fired, it’s hard to imagine how he could have done a better job, short of simply admitting the obvious: that the firing of eight United States attorneys was a partisan purge.

Mr. Gonzales came across as a dull-witted apparatchik incapable of running one of the most important departments in the executive branch.

And they offered up this as background:
He delegated responsibility for purging their ranks to an inexperienced and incompetent assistant who, if that’s possible, was even more of a plodding apparatchik. Mr. Gonzales failed to create the most rudimentary standards for judging the prosecutors’ work, except for political fealty. And when it came time to explain his inept decision making to the public, he gave a false account that was instantly and repeatedly contradicted by sworn testimony.
Here's the Washington Post editorial board:
YESTERDAY'S "reconfirmation hearing" for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, as Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) called it, didn't go particularly well -- but then again, there was no reason to expect that it would. It was impossible to watch the hearing without feeling sorry for Mr. Gonzales, who is bogged down in uncomfortable terrain. He has to acknowledge that he knew something, but not much, about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, which makes him appear a feckless manager, a dissembler, or both. His long-awaited appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee underscored the degree to which his credibility gap has widened into a chasm, for Republicans as well as Democrats.
Boston Globe editorial board:

IT IS DIFFICULT to say which version of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's role in the firing of eight US attorneys more disqualifies him as the nation's chief law enforcement officer. There is his version, in which he was only tangentially involved in an unprecedented mid term purge of federal prosecutors. If that is true, he allowed unsupervised underlings to handle one of the most important responsibilities of the Justice Department.

The other version is the one described by three of those aides: that Gonzales was closely involved in selecting US attorneys to be fired and building a case against them. If that version is true, Gonzales was lying again yesterday when he downplayed his role in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. In either case, he should have long since resigned.

Josh Marshall at Talkingpointsmemo:

A lot's been said so far about Attorney General Gonzales's testimony today. I've said plenty myself. The key though was the response from the committee's Republicans. You know that Sen. Coburn (R-OK), an extremely conservative but not necessarily party-regular senator, told Gonzales he should resign. There was more though. Two other Republican senators, I think, basically told Gonzales that they weren't going to tell him to resign but that he should. That's my interpretation of Sens. Specter and Graham's statements, certainly. And you don't have to agree. But I think it's a fair one. And even Sen. Sessions (R-AL), who normally I'd expect to be signing the administration line, was pretty damning.

I think it's fair to say that Gonzales has lost the confidence of at least half the Republican senators on the committee. He's given people too many causes of termination to choose from. You can want him to go for subverting the federal justice system. Or if that's too much for you to handle you can say he should go for running Main Justice like some ungainly combination of a Young Republicans summer camp and Michael Brown's FEMA. And if even that creates too much collateral damage for you to deal with you can just say he should go for lying about everything that happened.

Plenty of reasons to go around.

I'll let our Great and Glorious President, Defender of all that is Good against all that is Scary, Thwarter of Evil-Doers' Evil Deeds, Decider-in-Chief, George "Dubya" Bush have the last word:

President Bush was pleased with the Attorney General's testimony today. After hours of testimony in which he answered all of the Senators' questions and provided thousands of pages of documents, he again showed that nothing improper occurred. He admitted the matter could have been handled much better, and he apologized for the disruption to the lives of the U.S. Attorneys involved, as well as for the lack of clarity in his initial responses.

The Attorney General has the full confidence of the President, and he appreciates the work he is doing at the Department of Justice to help keep our citizens safe from terrorists, our children safe from predators, our government safe from corruption, and our streets free from gang violence.

Full confidence. Now that's scary.

April 19, 2007

The Trib's Got Dubya's Back

The Trib's got an editorial out today that hits all the Republican talking points regarding AG Alberto Gonzales. Well two of them, actually.

As the day progresses and some non-Virginia Tech news slips into the national coverage, listen for these two points:
  • But the bottom line remains that these federal prosecutors serve solely at the pleasure of the administration. (Paragraph 4, sentence 1 of the editorial)
  • There's absolutely no evidence of any illegalities in the firings. (Paragraph 6, sentence 1 of the editorial)
Of course each is beside the point. Heck, that first point's been debunked on the pages of the Trib itself.

Yesterday.
"U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president," [Texas Republican Lamar]Smith responded in a written statement. "Every president has the right to be served by people who support their policies."

The debate over the firings has eclipsed that rhetoric, said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor. Now at issue is whether the firings were politically motivated, he said
And notice the weasel words in the Trib's other point: There's absolutely no evidence of any illegalities in the firings. Of course not. The way the US Attorneys were fired - someone picked up a phone and dialed a number and delivered the bad news - is again, not the point.

Let me reiterate. The issue is whether there was pressure put on some (if not all) US Attorneys to go easy on Republicans and go hard on Democrats (especially prior to the last election) and when they didn't, a little more than half-dozen were fired and replaced with "loyal Bushies."

The attempt to politicize the supposedly apolitical DoJ alone is enough for hearings, isn't it?

Then there are contradicting the sworn statements of AG Gonzales. I thought Republicans hated perjury. I mean they impeached a sitting President because of perjury. So if a guy contradicts himself in testifying more than once to Congress, as long as what he's lying about isn't illegal, the perjury's OK?

Then there's the e-mails stored on RNC servers in an obvious attempt to side step Congressional oversight. I thought Republicans were in favor of the rule of law.

Don't they read the Constitution over there?

April 18, 2007

Super-Bob is On The Job

Take a look at this and read through the whole thing.

I am hoping the once and future Ethics Board will be more forthcoming with information than this. They sure made it difficult for Super-Bob Mayo.

The posting involves the hoops Bob Mayo and Elaine Effort (of KQV) had to jump through in order to get some info on the new nominee to the city's ethics board, one Penny Zacharias. Zacharias was being escorted through the city county building by a member of the city law department, one Kate DiSimone.

Here's an interesting part. At this point in the dance, DiSimone had been shuttling Zacharias away from Mayo and Effort for a short time when this interchange occurred:

Solicitor DiSimone: "I'm going to show Miss Zacharias where our meeting is going to be on Friday."

Mayo: "You are (who); I'm sorry?"

Solicitor DiSimone: "My name is Kate DiSimone, I'm with the city law department and will be meeting this Friday..."

Mayo: "Do you know what time and the location of the meeting?"

Solicitor DiSimone: "The meeting is scheduled for 10 o'clock. I'm not sure of the location yet."

Okaaay. So she's showing Zacharias where the meeting will be held but she doesn't know where the meeting will be held.

God, I hope this isn't any indication of the future efficiency or transparency of the ethics board.

Worst Persons of the World - April 17th

From last night's Countdown:

First, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.

And obviously, in the light of the events at Virginia Tech, a good time for one of the periodic reminders that this is satirical social commentary, not some sort of literal designation. Although, when you hear these, all about Virginia Tech, you may have your doubts.

The bronze to right-wing columnist Debby Schlussel. In between her references to, quote, Hoprah Winfrey, unquote, she first wrote yesterday that authorities did not immediately identified the shooter at Virginia Tech, so he might have been a, quote, Paki, and part of a coordinated terrorist attack by Muslims. She later updated this to conclude that he was a Chinese national, then a South Korean national. Quote, yet another reason to stop letting in so many foreign students. The shooter, of course, had been a resident alien who had been here since he was eight and a half years old.
Wait, it gets worse. Don‘t blame immigrants, blame the dead students. The silver to Nathaniel Blake of the publication “Human Events. The students at Virginia Tech, he writes, should be heartily ashamed of themselves. College classrooms have scads of young men who are at their physical peak, he writes, and none of them seems to have done anything beyond ducking, running, and holding doors shut. Something is clearly wrong with the men in our culture. Now, let‘s start with you.

Or with our winner tonight, John Derbeshire of the National Review online, fresh from saying he wouldn‘t mind seeing the English sailors captured by Iran physically injured or worse back in England, he writes now, setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn‘t anyone rush the guy ...At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands ...If I thought I was going to die anyway, I would at least take a run at the guy.

This is not one of the action film or James Bond fantasies running through your head, sir. This is real life, and those kids you mock are really dead. John Derbeshire, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

More on Mary Beth Buchanan

Again from Pamela Reed Ward at the P-G.

On top of all the good stuff from yesterday, Ward's added this:

According to the Justice Department Web site, the major functions of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys include "evaluating the performance of the Offices of U.S. Attorneys, making appropriate reports and taking corrective action where necessary" and "providing support to Deputy Attorney Generals regarding U.S. attorney appointments."

But former federal prosecutors said that is rarely the role of the executive office.

"EOUSA is an administrative office that is designed to serve as a conduit between main Justice and the field," said former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. "It doesn't supervise U.S. attorneys, and it would never be their call to remove a U.S. attorney."

I'd wondered about that. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if this administration decided to shift the job description. According to the Boston Globe, they were putting inexperienced Regent Law School grads in very important positions, why not turn the EOUSA into another political tool?

But here's the bigger question. Did any of the other US Attorneys know that the EOUSA was being used to supervise them? Were any of the other US Attorneys under the impression that the EOUSA was just an "administrative office" while Mary Beth Buchanan was being consulted by the administration about removing some of them?

Ward has more:

Ms. Buchanan also has earned favor within the administration by following the path of many Bush insiders as a member of the Federalist Society.

That was among the criteria in a set of Justice Department documents, released last week to the Judiciary Committee, listing the qualifications of U.S. attorneys.

The categories include political experience, either local, state or federal; prosecution experience, both state and federal; and membership in the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, a group of 35,000, founded by conservative law students.

For Ms. Buchanan, it lists her federal prosecutorial career from 1988 to 2001, and that she is a member of the Federalist Society.

This was a minor news story of the past few days - how the administration was tracking the political activities of the US Attorneys.

Jason Corto Cato at the Trib has this:

U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan might have played a role in determining which of her colleagues got the ax, and the House Judiciary Committee wants her to provide details of what she knew and when she knew it.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, told Senate investigators that he consulted with Buchanan about which U.S. attorneys should be asked to step down, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee aide who read a transcript of Sunday's interview to The Associated Press.

The good stuff comes a few paragraphs later.

A Justice Department official said Sampson consulted Buchanan while she was director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, which provides administrative support for U.S. attorneys offices across the country. Buchanan held that job from June 2004 to June 2005. During that time, a Justice Department chart rating U.S. attorneys was sent to the White House.

Working for Buchanan at that time was Monica Goodling. The former counsel to Gonzales and liaison to the White House has refused to cooperate with congressional investigators about her role in orchestrating the firings.[emphasis added]

Just to tie everything in a nice bow, Monica Goodling was one of those inexperienced Regent Law graduates installed in important positions in the Department of Justice.

It's so nice when everything comes full circle, doesn't it?

April 17, 2007

Mary Beth Buchanan in the News!

An astute reader sent me the link to this Post-Gazette article by Pamela Ward earlier today.

The chair of the House Judiciary Committee has requested an interview with U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan in relation to the ongoing investigation into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys late last year.

Ms. Buchanan is one of eight people identified in the letter sent to Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Hertling yesterday by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan.

According to a judiciary staffer, the committee has received information that causes concern about both the process of the firings and politically motivated prosecutions across the country.

Here's the letter Congressman Conyers sent.

Included on that list is Steven Biskupic, US Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin. He's the guy described in this blog posting. Biskupic was reportedly on the purge list, but came off it at about the same time he prosecuted a staffer in the office of the Wisconsin's Governor just before the 2006 election. The Republicans in that race used the prosecution to "prove" corruption in the Democratic Governor's administration, by the way.

Geez, will wonders never cease.

WTAE has some more information.
The Justice Department consulted with U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan in Pittsburgh when it was drawing up a list of prosecutors to be fired, a former top aide to the attorney general told investigators, and now a House committee wants to interview her.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, told Senate investigators Sunday that Buchanan was one of the senior officials he consulted about which U.S. attorneys should be asked to resign, according to a Senate Judiciary Committee aide who read a transcript of the interview. The aide requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Turns out that Ms Buchanan was, from mid-2004 to mid-2005, the director of Executive Office of US Attorneys. The EOUSA's missions and functions (according to it's website) include:
  • Evaluate the performance of the Offices of the United States Attorneys, making appropriate reports and taking corrective action where necessary.
Seems a natural that they'd want to talk to her. I just wonder what they're gonna ask.

Can't say it enough. Congressional oversight is a bee-you-tiful thing!

More Poll News

There's a new poll out from the Washington Post.

First the bad news for dubya - his approval numbers are still horrendous.

When asked the question:
Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president? Do you approve/disapprove strongly or somewhat?
Only 35% of those poll said they approved. 62% disapproved.

When asked the question:
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?
Only 29% of those polled said they approved. 70% disapproved.

And now the worse news for dubya - the public seems to like Speaker Pelosi.

When asked the question:
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Nancy Pelosi is handling her job as
Speaker of the House?
53% said said they approved. 35% disapproved.

This is AFTER the Pelosi-plane smear (which our good friend Ruth Ann Dailey did her darndest to promote and protect) and AFTER the Pelosi-Syria smear (which the Mike Pintek's been trying to promote).

Poll numbers are a snap-shot. They change all the time. But at this point and according to this poll, the American People APPROVED of Speaker Pelosi and DISAPPROVE of President Bush.

Chew on that for a bit.

More Bad News for AG Gonzales

When your president's political allies complain, then you know it's probably time to go. From Time Magazine:
In what could prove an embarrassing new setback for embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the eve of his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a group of influential conservatives and longtime Bush supporters has written a letter to the White House to call for his resignation.
Here's the text of the letter:

Dear Mr. President and Attorney General:

We, the undersigned co-founders of the American Freedom Agenda, urge the Attorney General to submit his resignation and the President to accept.

Mr. Gonzales has presided over an unprecedented crippling of the Constitution's time-honored checks and balances.

He has brought the rule of law into disrepute, and debased honesty as the coin of the realm.

He has engendered the suspicion that partisan politics trumps evenhanded law enforcement in the Department of Justice.

He has embraced legal theories that could be employed by a successor to obliterate the conservative philosophy of individual liberty and limited government celebrated by the Founding Fathers.

In sum, Attorney General Gonzales has proven an unsuitable steward of the law and should resign for the good of the country.

The President should accept the resignation, and set a standard to which the wise and honest might repair in nominating a successor, who will keep the law, like Caesar's wife, above suspicion.

The letter is then signed by a group of prominent conservatives including (according to Time):
Bruce Fein, a former senior official in the Reagan Justice Department, who has worked frequently with current Administration and the Republican National Committee to promote Bush's court nominees; David Keene, chairman of the influential American Conservative Union, one of the nation's oldest and largest grassroots conservative groups; Richard Viguerie, a well-known G.O.P. direct mail expert and fundraiser; and Bob Barr, the former Republican Congressman from Georgia and free speech advocate, as well as John Whitehead, head of the Rutherford Institute, a conservative non-profit active in fighting for what it calls religious freedoms.
Anyone want to start up a "Gonzales Resigns" pool?

The P-G on Dowd

I dunno, but I guess this qualifies as an endorsement. The P-G's editorial begins with:

Democrats in City Council District 7 have a high-contrast choice in the May 15 primary.

They can go with the incumbent, Len Bodack Jr., son of the longtime state senator, veteran of the Democratic Committee and foe of budget cuts that were needed to save the city. Or they can opt for the fresh thinking and independence of Patrick Dowd, a school board member who has been a force for change in Pittsburgh education and who didn't shrink from closing schools to reduce costly overcapacity.

And ends with:
Democrats need to choose carefully next month since no Republican is running and their nominee is likely to be the next council member. They should break with the past and make Patrick Dowd their choice.
In between there's some good stuff on the candidates.

For more info, see my interview with Dowd.

April 16, 2007

The Burgher Said It

The Burgher said:
Watching coverage of this disgusting tragedy on the news tonight, I can't help but think about Iraq.

Everyday, Iraqi civilians face attacks that rival and sometimes dwarf the VT tragedy in terms of deaths.
Yea.

On the Impeachment Front

Curious - I wonder if the editorial board over at the Trib even reads the newspaper. Take a look.

Despite constituents' continual calls to impeach President Bush -- or so leading congressional Democrats say -- the majority party insists it won't go down that road in the interest of national unity.

Oh, please. If Dems had any hook on which to hang a case -- such as catching President Bush in a bald-faced lie, for example -- they'd be all over impeachment like maggots to swill.

And:

Notice how neither lawmaker, nor the party's other nattering nabobs, even hint at what high "crime" is involved. Blathering on without so much as a shred of specifics -- while presuming themselves to be superior to Republicans because they impeached Bill Clinton -- reveals a truly twisted perspective.
We've been over this before.

Here's John Dean on the legal/politics of impeachment. The proper number of votes needed to impeach just can't be found in the Senate. Not because of any legal basis, but because of party loyalty - not enough Republican Senators will vote to Impeach. He wrote the article a little more than a year ago, and while the membership of the Senate has certainly shifted (yay!), I don't think that shift has been enough to erase Dean's analysis.

Then there's Congressman Mike Doyle. His position was that Impeachment would only serve to improve the President's poll numbers, as the Republicans would circle the wagons around the leader of their party. It would be a diversion. Strict oversight followed by the humiliating resignations of those found guily would be much more solid.

But neither Dean nor Congressman Doyle explicitly denied the existence of evidence to support impeachment as does the Trib's editorial board.

We've been through this before.

If the Trib editorial board wants some evidence, here's some.
On December 17 (2005) President Bush acknowledged that he repeatedly authorized wiretaps, without obtaining a warrant, of American citizens engaged in international calls. On the face of it, these warrantless wiretaps violate FISA, which requires court approval for national security wiretaps and sets up a special procedure for obtaining it. Violation of the law is a felony.
How long was George W Bush committing a felony?

Then there's the niger claims to Congress, the use of torture, the lies and distortions leading up to the Iraq war. Need I go on? What "news" has the editorial board at the Trib been reading?

Meanwhile up in those green and pleasant hills of Vermont, Impeachment's been chugging along anyway.

Members of Vermont's grassroots impeachment movement will meet with Vermont's top two Democrats on Wednesday in a final effort to push along legislation calling for President Bush's removal from office.

Supporters hope to convince House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, to put their political support behind a resolution asking the U.S. Congress to begin impeachment hearings against Bush.

And you know it's serious when Roland Hedley is on the story.

And while I still feel that in order to protect the integrity of the whole system, impeachment of some sort is demanded, I can see the points made by Dean and Doyle. We live in the real world and sometimes that means we gotta live with less than what we think is necessary.

Impeach.

April 14, 2007

A Wisconsin Update

Remember this? It was an editorial from an alternative weekly about one example of dubya's Justice Department targeting US Attorneys who weren't loyal enough.

It's made it into the McClatchy papers.
A U.S. attorney in Wisconsin who prosecuted a state Democratic official on corruption charges during last year's heated governor's race was once targeted for firing by the Department of Justice, but given a reprieve for reasons that remain unclear. A federal appeals court last week threw out the conviction of Wisconsin state worker Georgia Thompson, saying the evidence was "beyond thin."
And:

It wasn't clear when Biskupic was added to a Justice Department hit list of prosecutors, or when he was taken off, or whether those developments were connected to the just-overturned corruption case.

Nevertheless, the disclosure aroused investigators' suspicion that Biskupic might have been retained in his job because he agreed to prosecute Democrats, though the evidence was slight. Such politicization of the administration of justice is at the heart of congressional Democrats' concerns over the Bush administration's firings of the U.S. attorneys.

H/T to Talking Points Memo.

April 13, 2007

One Political Junkie On The Air!

I'll be on OffQ tonight at 7:30pm.

I've done a few of these before and they're always great fun. The idea that one is on LIVE FRICKIN' TV can be a little daunting but once the conversation starts, it usually takes on a life of its own.

I'll try to capture some of the magic with my camera phone. My big concern is that the studio lights will be so bright that the glare emanating out from by huge melon-shaped baldness will burn out the QED's cameras.

I hope that doesn't happen. And if it does, I hope I don't have to pay for it.

See you there.

UPDATE: Had a great time. It was my first time on the show with Heather Heidelbaugh and Bill Green, though I'd met both of them at various John McIntire anniversary parties. It was my third time on the show and I think I was only about 1/100th as nervous as I was when I was first on last year.

It was over too quickly.

I got the topics of discussion via e-mail about 1 O'Clock Friday afternoon. Included in the e-mail was a set of links to some news sources (P-G, CNN) so that everyone, I guess, can be at the same starting point for the discussion.

Maybe I'm remembering incorrectly but I was confused by Heather's reactions to the Imus story. I thought she was contradicting herself. Early on, she seemed to be saying that it was OK to toss Imus off the air as long as the standards are more universal - adding that she didn't think the standards are. Then a few minutes later, she seemed to be saying that Imus should not have been tossed because of free speech, adding that the real threat here is Political Correctness. She wants people to be free to say what they want and she wants to know who the racists and sexists are.

Maybe I'm remembering wrong - the studio lights WERE pretty hot and I hadn't had any dinner.

There were a couple of times when I had something to say, but Valerie was in the middle of a great point and I don't want to interrupt people when they're saying something interesting - a lesson my parents taught me. She's a very nice woman. A fan of this blog, too. (Hey, Valerie!)

It was a little odd not sitting next to Fred Honsberger. My previous two times on the show, I got to sit next to The Honzman himself. Bill Green is a very nice guy, smart and business efficient in his answers - no flash. I'm just glad the OPJ liked my suit better than his.

I would have liked to have discussed the US Attorney purges, especially since Heather is an attorney, Bush's war, since Bill was a supporter of the war when I used to see him on McIntire's Night Talk, and then maybe the Imus thing. But it wasn't my call - I was just the guest of the week.

A Justice Department Snapshot

Via Talkingpointsmemo, I found a very interesting op-ed from the Sheperd Express, an "alternative" weekly newspaper in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

You just gotta love those alternative weeklies. I used to write for one, by the way. It was called The Front and I think it had a circulation roughly the size of this city's Cleveland Brown fan base. My understanding is that it just couldn't compete with such big-time fat-cat establishment mainstream media outlets like Chris Potter's City Paper.

Anyway, the Sheperd Express offers up an interesting snapshot into how Justice, dubya-style, works in America these days. The story is all about the political skewing of what should be a politics-neutral governmental department.
Thursday’s ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which immediately freed former state worker Georgia Thompson, was a stunner. Not only did the three federal judges immediately give Thompson her freedom, but they also delivered a smack-down to the Milwaukee office of U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, calling the evidence in the case “beyond thin.”
Some background on the case:
Last June, just as the race for governor was heating up, Georgia Thompson was convicted of improperly steering a state contract to the Adelman Travel Group, which is run by a politically involved family that has a history of favoring Democrats.
And it turns out that even though Thompson got her job during the previous Republican administration, didn't profit from the contract in question, (which, as truth be told, did go to the lowest bidder), didn't live in the district where the charges were filed, and wasn't charged by any local authories, federal charges were filed anyway. Who cares about jurisdiction? Who cares about the rule of law?

Why would a US Attorney do such a thing?

But now, after weeks of news about Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department, we may have an answer to our questions. Feeling the political pressure, Biskupic first tried to find the massive voter fraud that the Republican Party and the Journal Sentinel, along with their talk-radio friends, screamed was rampant in the city of Milwaukee. They even provided hundreds of names of “illegal voters” that Biskupic attempted to track down. After spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, he found that there was no rampant voter fraud.

So Biskupic, in an attempt to satisfy his bosses, then went after Georgia Thompson. To destroy an innocent woman’s life was no problem for Biskupic if it could be used to help defeat Gov. Doyle. Once Georgia Thompson was charged, the Republican Party, the Journal Sentinel and the right-wing talk-show hosts used this indictment to try to make Doyle look corrupt.

But the point here has less to do with the original trial than it has with the bigger picture. It was never about Thompson. It was about how the Bush administration was using a US Attorney's office to commit political damage to a Democratic candidate prior to an election. When allegations of voter fraud turned out to be bogus (as they almost always do), the next target is a politically motivated show trail on evidence that's "beyond thin."

Whether the trial ends in a prosecution is of little value - as long as the damage is done to a Republican's Democratic opponent.

By the way, Doyle was re-elected and this case is being investigated by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ah, oversight. It's such a bee-you-tiful word!