Prosecute the torture.

May 31, 2007

Finally! Details on the anti-Kraus, antigay, Catholic flyers

Rumors had circulated in the Burgoshpere about an antigay flyer reportedly circulated at Catholic Churches by Koch supporters against Bruce Kraus the weekend before the primary for City Council in District 3. (If Kraus wins in November as is expected by EVERYONE -- Rauterkus notwithstanding-- he will be Pittsburgh's first openly gay elected official.

When details of the flyers did not materialize prior to the election, some anonymous commenters called foul claiming that it was nothing more than a rumor put out by Kraus supporters.

Well, wonder no more as this week's City Paper provides details -- including verification from Jeff Koch that the flyers did, indeed, exist. Of course, as with all the dirty tricks in District 3, Koch denies prior knowledge of the flyers though he admits that it "may have been somebody from my side who didn't tell me."

Here's the details:
According to the Kraus camp, Koch supporters distributed fliers headlined "Support Catholic Values, Vote No To Bruce Kraus on May 15th" at local churches. The flyers, which were handed out as churchgoers were leaving Mass, included a bio of Kraus taken from the Web site of the Victory Fund, a Washington, D.C. group that supports gay and lesbian candidates.

Kraus is gay, and the Victory Fund biography notes, "If elected, Kraus would be the first openly LGBT person on the Pittsburgh City Council, and the first openly LGBT person elected in Western Pennsylvania." The flyer reprinted the biography, along with a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette clipping that identified the fund as one of Kraus' largest campaign donors. (The group gave Kraus $2,500.)
The City Paper article also recounts the scuffles between Bodack and Dowd supporters at the polls.

You can read the entire article here.

DeSantis with Mayo

It's not a new sandwich -- it's Bob Mayo's highlights of his interview with Republican candidate for Mayor, Mark DeSantis. Here's my highlights of Mayo's highlights:
• "I just think it's time for change. And the people I've spoken to over the last several months or so when I was considering this have said they want change and they want it now."

• "I was hoping Bill Peduto would stay in the race. I think he's a reformer. When I saw that we're not really going to have a dialog about this city the way I had hoped, I thought maybe we should think about jumping into this race."

• "Our focus is on the reform agenda, and what I would even call profound reform. That's what's desperately needed here. And that's going to be the focus of our policies going forward."
You can read the rest at Mayo's blog, The Busman's Holiday, here.

You can read David's interview with DeSantis here.

"When are we going to get out of here?"

An interesting snapshot from ground in dubya's war from the McClatchy papers:

Spc. David Williams, 22, of Boston, Mass., had two note cards in his pocket Wednesday afternoon as he waited for Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Williams serves in the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., the first of the five "surge" brigades to arrive in Iraq, and he was chosen to join the Independent from Connecticut for lunch at a U.S. field base in Baghdad.

The night before, 30 other soldiers crowded around him with questions for the senator.

He wrote them all down. At the top of his note card was the question he got from nearly every one of his fellow soldiers:

"When are we going to get out of here?"

Unfortunately, according to the article it's unclear whether Lieberman was ever asked any of those questions.

Senator Brownback on Evolution

You remember this, right?



Well, the good Senator from Kansas has written a NYTimes Op-Ed column to explain himself. And like many other defenses of faith-based science, it starts out muddy and then quickly descends into a circular self-affirming argument.

Brownback describes the question at the debate, "Does anyone on the stage not believe in evolution?":
The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.
If you look carefully, you'll see that the Senator starts with a false premise. No where (except for his imagination, I guess) is there the implication that the only two possibilities are evolution or young-Earth creationism. He's projected that onto the question. Indeed, one of the supposed strengths of Intelligent Design is that it's neither young-Earth creationism - nor evolution. It's another possibility.

But then he gets to his main point when he says, "We must not drive a wedge between faith and reason." The point of contention seems to be "man's" place in the Cosmos. Brownback asserts that evolution's adherents (or at least their most "passionate advocates") offer "a vision of man as a kind of historical accident" and that's what conflicts with the cosmology of "divine causality."

By the end of the piece, however, it's obvious that when Senator Brownback believes that when the two are in conflict, faith must win.

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

What the good Senator doesn't realize is that, if my reading of Quine is correct, every statement of fact is a belief. And every belief - from "God willed Man into being" to "John Lennon died in December of 1980" is or is not based on evidence. The true statements are the ones more closely tied to their underlying evidence. And if there's no underlying evidence? One may believe whatever one wishes, but just don't call it a fact.

And the danger in the Senator's assertions can be found in this sentence:
I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos.
That some how the effect of a hypothesis has something to do with whether it's true.

Once that's established, all science is under threat.

Two Big Events TODAY!

Rally to Stop the Bus Cuts

What: Rally to Stop the Bus Cuts
Where: Mellon Square 6th and Smithfield Streets
When: Noon, Thursday, May 31, 2007

Transit Workers, commuters and concerned citizens will rally at lunchtime at Mellon Square Park at 6th and Smithfield Streets on Thursday to protest the looming transit cuts. The action, organized by ATU Local 85, is being supported by the Campaign to Stop the Bus Cuts. The rally to protest the service cuts will call on leaders to get the funding that we need to prevent them. This problem should not be solved on the backs of riders or transit workers.

More on the bus cuts from Agent Ska here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Cocktails for a Cause at the Firehouse Lounge

What: Planned Parenthood's Cocktails for a Cause
Where: The Firehouse Lounge (Strip District, 2216 Penn Avenue)
When: 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM, Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sexy meets savvy when Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania invites you to carouse with an evening of Planned Parenthood pictionary, Condom Blackjack, and their Safe Sextini drink special. 21+, free parking, $5 donation.

May 30, 2007

It's Official: It's Dowd!

From the Dowd Campaign:
For Immediate Release

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Board of Elections Certifies May 15th Dowd Victory

The Allegheny County Division of Elections today completed the preliminary certification process of May 15th primary results for Council District seven. Patrick Dowd's official margin of victory over incumbent Councilman Len Bodack, Jr. will stand at 91 votes (3133 votes Dowd, 3042 votes Bodack) , making Dowd the Democratic nominee for the seat in the November general election. Final certification occurs at the State level on June 4th.

"While we have remained confident in the certainty of our victory, I am pleased that the certified results reflect numbers our campaign has maintained. As I have said since Tuesday the 15th, I look forward to working with Councilman Bodack and every community organization to address the multitude of issues facing constituents," Patrick said. "I hope Councilman Bodack shares my belief that a smooth and orderly transition will best serve the neighborhoods he has represented for the last four years."

"I look forward to spending my summer reading, meeting with residents of Council District 7 and, most of all, listening," Patrick said.

##

According to last week's Post-Gazette, Len Bodack said he would wait until the final certification of the vote before deciding on any next step. He has five days from the certification to issue any challenge of the results.

The Race is On

According to today's P-G, Mark DeSantis got 910 write in votes. And since he only needed 250, it looks like there'll be a real live mayoral race in the city of Pittsburgh this November.

Mr. DeSantis, head of a business consulting firm, had been reticent about a possible campaign before the primary.

Yesterday, he answered the question of whether he was running by saying "I'm a candidate. Absolutely."

You can read my interview with him here.

Mayor Luke, of course, was tracked down for a proper quote. He said:
"I look forward to continuing to govern the city of Pittsburgh, which ultimately, in my opinion, good government translates to good politics, so that's what the focus will be."
Can someone buy that man a book on English grammar? He sounds like a buffoon. The next quotation doesn't help either (though it's a little clearer):
"We'll do whatever is necessary, do whatever we feel we have to, to win the election," he said. "My goal will be to win the election in November, and to whatever extent I have to run a viable campaign, I am willing to do so, both with manpower and financially."
This is just too easy. What is he saying here? The first sentence actually contradicts itself as there's a bit of a difference between doing "what ever is necessary" and "whatever we feel we have to." And is there any politician alive who's goal isn't to win the next election?

But that last part - it almost sounds like while he's "willing" to run a campaign, he's not altogether too happy about it.

Poor Luke. Democracy can be such a pain in the ass.

More Proof Plame Was COVERT

Saw this in the news yesterday (or "yesstiddy" as we'd say in New England).

It should, though I know it won't, finally end the ruckus about Valerie Plame's CIA status. Turns out she was COVERT. The Reality-Based Community already knew that, but it's nice to see it in court documents filed by a US Attorney.
An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame's employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was "covert" when her name became public in July 2003.
Ok raise your hands, how many of you on the right are now blushing red out of embarrassment? How many made the charge in the news or on your radio shows that Plame wasn't covert because you could call her desk at the CIA? How many claimed she was just a soccer mom?

Plame worked as an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations and was assigned to the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) in January 2002 at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

The employment history indicates that while she was assigned to CPD, Plame, "engaged in temporary duty travel overseas on official business." The report says, "she traveled at least seven times to more than ten times." When overseas Plame traveled undercover, "sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias -- but always using cover -- whether official or non-official (NOC) -- with no ostensible relationship to the CIA."

You can read the court document here. Again, show of hands. How many right wingers out there based at least part of their incorrect assertion that Plame was not covert on the "fact" that she hadn't travelled overseas? That "fact" isn't a fact at all is it?

Will you be apologising for your error? Will you at least be pointing out that you were in error?

We're waiting...

May 29, 2007

Congressman Altmire on Night Talk

Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-4) was on John McIntire's old show this evening talking about, among other things, immigration reform and the Iraq war funding bill.

Altmire and Mike Pintek also sparred on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Pintek was trotting out the tired old "Pelosi didn't meet with General Petreus" story). To his credit, Altmire got the better of Pintek on that.

On the other hand, the Congressman had to defend his recent vote in favor of funding the Iraq war without any sort of timetables to two callers (I was one of them - someone named "Cassidy" was the other). His main argument rested on the idea that he'd always promised never to vote to defund the troops.

I called in to remind both of them that according to a recent poll, a large majority of Americans actually WANTED funding with timetables, that the Democrats were elected in November with a clear message of ending the war, and to set up some accountability for a President who hasn't had any in 6 years. It's very sad that the Democrats in Congress couldn't deliver a bill that more clearly reflected the will of the People.

And here's an interesting tidbit: Pintek signals the control room to cut off a caller (at least he did it tonight) by tapping his pen on the table. I think poker players would call it a "tell."

Kevin Miller on KDKA

Since I, like most everyone else, had a day off yesterday, I was able to catch up on some of my wing-nut surveillance. I took a little time (time that I'll never get back, by the way) to listen to the new guy on KDKA radio - Kevin Miller.

He went through some of the usual mindnumbingly wrong explanations of 911. The most interesting was that it's all Clinton's fault, that Clinton should have been paying attention to terrorism rather than chasing around Monica Lewinsky and that Clinton did nothing about terrorism. Never mind that the Clinton's affair with Lewinsky ended more than 4 years before 911. And never mind the Richard Clarke memo urging the new Bush administration to continue working on al-Qaeda.

Facts, of course, never make much of an impression on far-right blowhards.

But a curious thing happened during the portion of the program I heard. A woman called in (obviously one of those dangerous anti-war types) and questioned Miller on his own military service. He said that he had been in the service - and added no details.

I found that curious because when a person is asked that question he (or she) usually responds with, "Yes, I served in the Army." or some such answer. Rarely is the answer merely a "Yes."

So I went googling. The furthest I got was this reference from a website called "Renew America." If you look closely (or maybe it's not necessary to look all that closely) you'll see that the website definitely leans to the right. This is all I could find about Mr Miller's military experience:
Morning host Kevin Miller (who, about the time of the Republican primary, replaced long-time WWTN morning host Steve Gill) at first allowed Mr. Kovach to call into his program. Then, suddenly, he began to treat Mr. Kovach in a rude and shameful manner on the air. This included frequently interrupting the candidate, changing the subject frequently, and even playing the song "Yakety Sax" at a loud volume while Mr. Kovach was trying to answer Miller's questions. (Notably, Miller touts himself as a "former Army Reserve journalist," but has also admitted on-air that his military service "just didn't work out" after only a short time.)
Granted, this leaves open a HUGE number of possibilities about the extent of Mr Miller's service. Which branch? When did he join? How long was this "short time"? Why was it so short? What ended it?

Anyone have any idea? I certainly don't.

The Trib Editorial Board - Another Smear?

I am wondering if this is a pattern. Recently I pointed out how the Trib's editorial board was extending the life of a smear long since debunked.

Today, it looks like they're doing it again. Take a look. In an editorial about how underarmed the Air Force is, they include this paragraph:
The armed forces were degraded during the Clinton administration after the end of the Cold War. Subsequently, Congress and President Bush have not provided sufficient procurement funds.
OK, so they slam (if that's the right word) the current administration in the second sentence. But is the first sentence actually, you know, accurate?

Not according to Lawrence Korb, undersecretary for Defense in the Reagan Administration. He wrote this in 2003:

The Clinton administration actually spent more money on defense than had the outgoing administration of the first President Bush. The smaller outlays during the first Bush administration were developed and approved by Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who were then serving as secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff respectively.

Clinton's last secretary of defense, William Cohen, turned over to Rumsfeld a defense budget that was higher in real terms than what James Schlesinger had bequeathed to Rumsfeld when he took over the Pentagon for the first time in 1975 at the height of the Cold War.

Korb then goes on to list all the improvements bought and paid for by the Clinton Administration; Smart weapons, the Tomahawk cruise missile and Patriot missile systems were all improved during the Clinton administration.

I'm sure the picture is far more complicated than I can imagine. But on the other hand, it's always fun to find a subtle smear on the Tribune-Review's editorial page.

May 28, 2007

In Memoriam


John Moore/Getty Images Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Mary McHugh visited the grave of her fiancé, Sgt. James J. Regan, who was killed
in Iraq in February. He is buried in the new Section 60 of Arlington National
Cemeteryfor those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While today is the day that we set aside to honor all service men and women who have given their lives for this country, it is impossible not to pay special attention to those who are dying as we speak in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We've printed the picture below here at 2pj many times because our current Administration continues to refuse to fully honor our fallen by spiriting in their coffins in the dead of night and by their absence at any funerals of those who have perished in Iraq. This is a reminder that this photograph was taken, by necessity, in secret while our Commander in Chief has asked no greater sacrifice of the American people than that they go shopping.


Since Memorial Day 2006, over 1,000 more soldiers have died.

As of last Thursday, 3,441 soldiers have died in Iraq. Another 25,242 have been wounded.

The number of Iraqi civilians killed and wounded is unknown.

You can see all the names of U.S. Troops killed in Iraq from March 21, 2003 to May 25, 2007 here.

You can view a list of Memorial Day events in Pittsburgh here.

However one may feel about this war, I know that all who are reading these words will give pause today to remember those who have, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, given "the last full measure of devotion."

.

May 27, 2007

The Berger Smear...Again

In an editorial today, the Trib editorial board writes:
Allegations continue that during his preparation for testimony before the 9/11 commission, Berger destroyed documents that would have greatly embarrassed Mr. Clinton over his devil-may-care approach to terrorism.
As Daniel Patrick Moynahan is quoted as saying:
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.
And The Trib is trying to have it's own fact here. Why? Well, let's take a look at the facts (the actual facts, not the allegations of facts from the right-wing press). According to the New York Times:
In 2003, Mr. Berger spent several days at the National Archives reviewing classified material as the Clinton administration’s designated liaison to the Sept. 11 commission. He later admitted that he took and destroyed several versions of a classified report prepared in 2000 on the so-called millennium terrorist plots, although the commission had copies of the same reports.
And the dependably right-wing OpinionJournal:
So we called Justice Department Public Integrity chief prosecutor Noel Hillman, who assured us that Mr. Berger did not deny any documents to history. "There is no evidence that he intended to destroy originals," said Mr. Hillman. "There is no evidence that he did destroy originals. We have objectively and affirmatively confirmed that the contents of all the five documents at issue exist today and were made available to the 9/11 Commission."
So whatever "embarrassing" information found in the reports is still in the reports, right? And those reports are still in the National Archives, right? And yet, The Trib is still at it, implying a cover-up when the evidence doesn't support it.

Not surprising - it IS the right wing press, you know.

May 25, 2007

Tony Norman on George Bush's Press Conference Yesterday

In his movie A Bronx Tale, Chazz Palminteri has his main character, a young man named Calogero Anello, question whether it's better to be loved or feared. It's obvious Palminteri's read his Machiavelli as that same question is covered in Chapter 17 of The Prince. The man Calogero asks, a local mafioso named Sonny LoSpecchio, answers (as Machievelli does 4 centuries earlier) that he'd rather be feared because fear lasts longer than love. The trick, he adds, is in not being hated. If my memory serves though, being loved has to rank higher than being feared because Sonny ends up with a bullet in his head and no one's sad to see him gone.

Tony Norman (while I am pretty sure he's seen the movie) asks a different question in today's column: Whether it's better to be seen as stupid or evil. The subject, of course, is George W. Bush.

Though his news conference was a grim and listless performance, Mr. Bush stuck to the script and dutifully recited every talking point drilled into him by his subordinates -- all the while smirking like a man who would do anything to avoid the indignity of being thought an idiot.

That's when it occurred to me that George W. Bush is still at a stage of life where being considered evil by his interlocutors is preferable to being thought stupid.

A few paragraphs later:
With $300 billion already down a rat hole and another $120 billion in the pipeline thanks to the Democrats' tendency to blink under pressure, this insanity will go on until more principled congressional leadership musters the courage to pull the plug on the greatest foreign policy debacle in American history.
And finally his ending:

Mr. Bush spent part of the news conference trying to remove a splotch of bird droppings deposited on his sleeve by a sparrow -- a final sign that the mandate of heaven he once took for granted had been withdrawn.

When the definitive history of this war is written and a full account has been taken of its spillage of blood, its rituals of mutilation and its mindless embrace of death, Mr. Bush may be the first president to be regarded by future generations as both evil and stupid.

While the Democrats in Congress are just spineless (and probably just a little stupid for enabling Bush's actions), whether Bush is evil or stupid or both I can't really say.

In the end, I wish nothing more for dubya than to have a long and healthy life - in hopes that he'll realize that thousands of other human beings were denied long and/or healthy lives because of his decisions.

The Senate Vote on HR 2206

Here's how the AP tells the tale.
Bowing to President Bush, the Democratic-controlled Congress grudgingly approved fresh billions for the Iraq war Thursday night, minus the troop withdrawal timeline that drew his earlier veto.
Even though, as I posted earlier, most Americans (63%) continue to support a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

So how did our PA Senators do?

Take a look. The bill passed the Senate 80-14. Did either Pennsylvania Senator vote NO?

No.

Here's a list of the Senators who voted NO:

Boxer (D-CA)Burr (R-NC) Clinton (D-NY) Coburn (R-OK) Dodd (D-CT) Enzi (R-WY) Feingold (D-WI) Kennedy (D-MA) Kerry (D-MA) Leahy (D-VT) Obama (D-IL)Sanders (I-VT) Whitehouse (D-RI) Wyden (D-OR)

So despite the fact that the majority of Americans want a timeline for withdrawal of the troops in Iraq, the Congress backed down and gave dubya what he'd always demanded anyway - the cash with no strings.

Truly Disappointing.

May 24, 2007

House Vote on HR 2206

From Talkingpointsmemo to their "Election Central" page:
The House of Representatives voted 280-142 in favor of funding the Iraq War without any binding benchmarks to measure progress. While the vote was roughly two-to-one in favor of passage, 140 Democrats voted No, and the bill passed on the strength of 194 Republican Yeas plus 86 Democrats, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Curiously, Congressman David Obey (D-WI) voted against the very measure he helped to negotiate, as did Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- the only member of the House leadership to vote against it. The bill goes to the Senate for expected passage tonight.
That link takes you here.

Let's take a look at the 19 members of the PA delegation. Following the practice at clerk.house.gov, Republicans are in italics and Democrats are in roman.
  1. Brady (N)
  2. Fattah (N)
  3. English (Y)
  4. Altmire (Y)
  5. Peterson (Y)
  6. Gerlach (Y)
  7. Sestak (Y)
  8. Murphy, P. (N)
  9. Shuster (Y)
  10. Carney (Y)
  11. Kanjorski (Y)
  12. Murtha (Y)
  13. Schwartz (Y)
  14. Doyle (N)
  15. Dent (Y)
  16. Pitts (Y)
  17. Holden (Y)
  18. Murphy, T (Y)
  19. Platts (Y)
By my count all 8 Republicans voted YES. And of the 11 Democrats? 7 of them also voted YES. Only 4 of the state's 19 House members (Brady, Fattah, Patrick Murphy, and Doyle) voted NO.

The geography is interesting. Brady is from the PA-1, a district that is real close to Philadelphia. Fattah is from PA-2 a district that is also real close to Philadelphia. Patrick Murphy (the first veteran of the Iraq war to serve in Congress) is from PA-8 which is another district real closet to Philadelphia.

So that means (if I didn't blunder here) that in our area, the ONLY House member from either party to vote NO on the bill was Mike Doyle, PA-14. All the other local Dems voted with the Republicans.

Did they miss the news?
A majority of Americans continue to support a timetable for withdrawal. Sixty-three percent say the United States should set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq sometime in 2008.
I suppose so.

UPDATE: I've been informed by an astute reader that Brady's and Fattah's districts are, in fact, not just "real close" to Philadelphia, they're mostly WITHIN Philadelphia. Thank you, Mr. nit-picky-always-gotta-be-right astute reader guy!

UPDATE II: In a press release out today, Congressman Mike Doyle explains his NO vote:

I share the anger and frustration of the vast majority of my constituents over the President's refusal to be held accountable for his failed plan to invade and occupy Iraq and build a stable, peaceful government in that country. Today, after four years of trying, he has failed to produce a credible plan for extracting our troops from the ongoing civil war in Iraq.

I won't give another $100 billion to this administration without enforceable benchmarks and timelines for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

I missed Olbermann Last Night

And his Special Commentary.

Some highlights. Along with scorching the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with his usual brilliance, Keith Olbermann now turns his sights on the failures (as he sees them) of the Democratic Congress:
You, the men and women elected with the simplest of directions—Stop The War—have traded your strength, your bargaining position, and the uniform support of those who elected you… for a handful of magic beans.
He'd just finished saying:

The Democratic leadership has surrendered to a president—if not the worst president, then easily the most selfish, in our history—who happily blackmails his own people, and uses his own military personnel as hostages to his asinine demand, that the Democrats “give the troops their money”;

The Democratic leadership has agreed to finance the deaths of Americans in a war that has only reduced the security of Americans;

The Democratic leadership has given Mr. Bush all that he wanted, with the only caveat being, not merely meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but optional meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government.

The Democratic leadership has, in sum, claimed a compromise with the Administration, in which the only things truly compromised, are the trust of the voters, the ethics of the Democrats, and the lives of our brave, and doomed, friends, and family, in Iraq.

He ends by saying that the entire government has failed us. The case for Bush's failures are obvuious. For the Democratic party, they have failed us because they have failed to stop dubya's war.

Night Talk Last Night

Saw an amazing thing on Night Talk last night. Mike Pintek was his usual wingnut blusterer, but he was interviewing my favorite P-G ex-National Security columnist Jack Kelly for the first hour of the show.

They were discussing the Immigration Bill making its way through the Congress. But that's not the full story.

Bill Peduto was the guest on the second half hour.

By all that's holy did that happen? For at least some part of the hour, Peduto and Commando Kelly were in the same room at the same time.

Did anyone see anything odd happening in the heavens lastnight? No glimpses of the SpaceTime continuum unraveling or anything?

Just asking.

More Government Activity Deemed Illegal

So sez the GAO.

The AP is reporting:
The Homeland Security Department is breaking the law by not telling the public exactly how personal information is used to screen international travelers, including Americans, congressional investigators said Wednesday.
But take a look at the administration's explanation:

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke defended the program.

"The GAO in this case is woefully uninformed and I think that Congress and the public are being poorly served by this report," Knocke said. This program, he added, "has been the subject of more than 20 speeches or testimonies at hearings."

Perhaps the AP left something out in Knocke's defense - like any mention of contrary evidence stating the program isn't illegal. Nothing but the statement that the program's the subject of more than "20 speeches" (wow) at hearings.

Which speeches? By which officials? Which hearings? In front of which committees? The AP has an answer for that in the next few paragraphs:
Except for two footnotes to documents sent to Congress, however, the administration's public references primarily described the system as a cargo and passenger screening system without details of its operations. Many officials were only aware of the cargo aspect of the screening system until last fall.
This is the Bush Administration, remember. Not the most honest gang out there, doncha know.

Here's the report, by the way. The introduction (pg. 2) opens up an uncomfortable set of issues. Take a look:
A second aviation passenger prescreening effort designed to strengthen the passenger prescreening process is intended to align international passenger prescreening with a similar program (currently under development) for prescreening passengers on domestic flights. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)—a separate agency within DHS—is developing a domestic passenger prescreening program called Secure Flight. If CBP’s international prescreening program and TSA’s Secure Flight program are not effectively aligned once Secure Flight becomes operational, this could result in separate implementation requirements for air carriers and increased costs for both air carriers and the government. CBP and TSA officials stated that they are taking steps to coordinate their prescreening efforts, but they have not yet made all key policy decisions.

In addition to these efforts to strengthen certain international aviation passenger prescreening procedures, one other issue requires consideration in the context of these efforts. This issue involves DHS providing the traveling public with assurances of privacy protection as required by federal privacy law. Federal privacy law requires agencies to inform the public about how the government uses their personal information. Although CBP officials have stated that they have taken and are continuing to take steps to comply with these requirements, the current prescreening process allows passenger information to be used in multiple prescreening procedures and transferred among various CBP prescreening systems in ways that are not fully explained in CBP’s privacy disclosures. If CBP does not issue all appropriate disclosures, the traveling public will not be fully aware of how their personal information is being used during the passenger prescreening process.[Emphasis added]
Secure Flight is the DHS' third passenger screening program, by the way. The first, CAPPS, was implemented in the late 1990s and was supposed to be updated in 2003. CAPPS II, as this update was called, was criticized by another GAO report (Feb, 2004) and cancelled that August. There were problems with the program being behind schedule as well as problems with security and oversight. From the conclusion of the report:
Of particular concern among the remaining seven issues is the security of both the system and passenger data contained in the system, as well as a means to provide adequate system oversight. Without proper oversight, there is limited assurance that the system and its data will be adequately protected against misuse, and that the system is operating as intended. Additionally, significant risks exist that adequate system testing, particularly to assure that CAPPS II can meet expected load demands, may be shortchanged. An effective risk mitigation strategy for system testing would help assure that system functionality and expected peak loads can be achieved. Lastly, given the concerns regarding the protection of passenger data, the system cannot be fully accepted if it lacks a comprehensive redress process for those who believe they are erroneously labeled as an unknown or unacceptable risk.
CAPPS II's replacement is Secure Flight - itself subject to a GAO criticism for a lack of privacy controls.

Yep. That feels about right with this administration. When it's not corrupt, it's incompetant.

May 23, 2007

Let's get ready to rumble!

Up now at The Burgh Report:
BURGHREPORT EXCLUSIVE: MAYOR RAVENSTAHL SENDS CATTY EMAIL TO COUNCIL PRESIDENT SHIELDS

WARNING: You piss off the owners of Rover and Miss Fluffy Kitty (and voters in general) at your own expense!

Last week the members of Pittsburgh City Council seemed only too happy to give Mayor Ravenstahl what he wanted and seemed ready and willing to change the waiting period for euthanizing unlicensed dogs and cats from three days to two. (The story did provide the Burghosphere some merriment at Councilman Motznik's cat-envy rant -- the latest seen here.)

However, the owners of all the Rovers and Miss Fluffy Kitty's out there have been calling and emailing Council members and at least nine concerned citizens (one armed with a petition with 72 names garnered in less than 24 hours) helped to persuade Council to hold off on voting on the bill (# 2007-1430) which came up before it yesterday.

The stories told by these citizens in the Public Comments section of the Council meeting included some scary tails tales. One, of a police officer who was more than happy to claim his retired police dog (who had tags) only to discover that he'd been killed within 24 hours. There were similar stories of people turning in stray animals on the condition that they would be able to claim them for adoption only to discover that the animals had been killed in a day or two. (One good tip that I got out of all this is if you should be unlucky enough to lose a pet, make sure to call The Animal Rescue League ASAP as they are in effect the City Pound.)

However, as the Post-Gazette points out, Council members may have been responding to more than just the pleas of animal lovers:
Feisty City Council rebuffs mayor on vehicles, animal control

A week after three of its nine members were rejected by voters, a newly feisty Pittsburgh City Council put a leash yesterday on animal-control changes and slammed the brakes on a car-sharing proposal, two measures pushed by the mayor's office.

"I wish to remind the administration that council is to be included in any discussion of contracting," Council President Doug Shields said. "If you take this council for granted, you do so to the detriment of your own legislative agenda."

[snip]

Council's surliness came a week after Len Bodack, Jeff Koch and Ms. Carlisle lost Democratic primaries. Mr. Ravenstahl did not get very involved in their re-election bids, lending to the new tone on what had been a mayor-friendly council.

Yes, yes, for once, what had been an 8-1 rubber-stamp Council suddenly had all kinds of questions on proposals by the popular Boy Wonder Mayor. They actually wanted to function in an oversight role.

Oh what a difference an election makes!

Councilwoman Payne, for example, took great pains to say that while she was for the car-sharing program she had not spoken to anyone in the Mayor's Administration prior to making her decision. It should be noted that no one at the Council meeting had suggested that she had.

While no new members have been seated at the Council table yet -- hell, no new members have actually been voted into office yet -- last week's primary election certainly seems to have shaken up Luke's buddies to the point where they may actually do the job for which they are paid.

Can I Get an "Amen"?!

UPDATE: An example of a Virtual Vulcan Mind Meld in blogging here (notice the time each item was posted).
.

BOOM!

Has John McIntire's head literally exploded yet?

.

May 22, 2007

My Interview with Mark DeSantis

Mark DeSantis is not your usual Pittsburgh mayoral candidate, that's for sure.

Strolling in alone (what? no handlers looking over our shoulders?) to the Coffee Tree Roasters on Walnut Street a little after 6pm, clad in sandals, shorts, and a pullover shirt, he looked more like a college professor relaxing on summer break than a guy who might be running for mayor of the city of Pittsburgh. He snagged an iced chai, we shook hands, he sat down, and we talked.

Since the primary election results have not yet been made official, he said he couldn't go into any specifics on the race or the workings of his campaign staff, which hasn't been formed yet.

That's fine - I started with the basics. Given the wide array of Republican archetypes, I asked, where does he place himself within the spectrum of Republican politics? I didn't even get to the end of the question when he answered, "Moderate Republican." It's different things on a national scale than it is on a local scale, he said, and while he didn't really touch on things national, he then went on to define the phrase by uttering for the first of many times of the hour, what looks to be the theme of his campaign - he said he's looking for local government that's efficient, effective and transparent. He returned to those three words (in that order) at least a half dozen times throughout the hour.

The core of his campaign (if there is to be a campaign, that is) is to fix city government and make it efficient, effective and transparent (see? what did I tell you?). It's the three legged table upon which everything else rests. And without any one of them, any plan would fail. He said that if Pittsburgh had those three things at the center of it's current city government already, he wouldn't be running.

When pushed on for details, though, he said I'd just have to wait until the campaign.

We went into some issues. The city is in dire financial straights, he said. We're $2.5 billion in debt with a looming pension crisis yet to occur. When asked why the problem seemingly hasn't been addressed more by the public, he said the reason is that it hasn't really affected us yet.
The only way he's seeing it's affecting city government is by the amount the city has to pay for the debt - it's eating into the city's discretionary spending. It's shrinking and will continue to skrink as the years progress.

And it's going to take years, he said, to fix.

The city is going to have to go back to it's roots, back to basics. What are the core beliefs of good government? He pointed to the city charter written in the early 70s and was very passionate about addressing the duties of the city and its citizenry in both being responsible for good government. The city has to provide for the people and the people have to be involved in the process. He said he's a believer in public service and that government has a positive role to play in people's lives. To get at where he's coming from, go take a look at page 5 of the City Charter.

He said he wants to run a campaign unlike any seen in a long time, adding, though, the politicalspeak about how it'll be "less a campaign than a conversation about who we are and what we believe." Throughout the hour, he was speaking in the language of a political populist.

I imagine it's a solution to his one obvious obstacle in running for political office as a Republican in Pittsburgh: Republicans are probably as rare as Browns fans here. By appealing to everyone in the city to get involved in the affairs of the city, I am guessing he's looking to attempt to overcome the overwhelmingly unlevel playing field of local politics.

He was adamant about getting everyone, regardless of background or sexual orientation, involved in the process. It's absolutely necessary. No citizen should be excluded from the benefits of being a part of a vibrant city but on the other hand a poorly functioning city will eventually drag down every part of that city, though some parts will suffer sooner than others.

His putative campaign will be facing many obstacles - not the least being that he's an Republican in a very blue city of a slightly less blue state. But quoting Teddy Roosevelt, he outlined how he'll deal with things, "Use what you have, where you are, when you have it."

Not your average Pittsburgh mayoral candidate, indeed.

On Voter Fraud

Maybe that should be voter "fraud" or maybe "voter fraud" - I'm not sure.

Anyway, I can recall as clear as day, my friend Fred Honsberger ranting time and time again on Honsberger Live! about the rampant voter fraud threatening the peace and stability of this great nation of ours. So threatening, of course, that it warranted some serious revamping of the way we vote, for surely no one would be in support of a system that allowed such rampant voter fraud, right?

Turns out that, as with many right wing rants, the "voter fraud" movement is itself a fraud.

By way of Slate.com.

The article by Richard Hasen is ostensibly about the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR), an organization once front and center in the Republican war against voter fraud. It's gone now. Kaput. Disappeared. Vanished, as Gary Busey once said, like a virgin on prom night.

In case you couldn't see it coming, this is part of the US Attorney firing story. Those fired US Attorneys were being pressured to prosecute allegations of voter fraud and when they didn't, they were shown the door.

Too bad for God's Own Party, the rhetorical foundation upon which those allegations were based are all more or less an illusion. Here's Hasen describing how they did it:
ACVR's method of argument followed a familiar line, first set out by Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund in his book, Stealing Elections. First, ACVR argued extensively by anecdote, pointing to instances of illegal conduct, such as someone, somewhere registering Mary Poppins to vote. Anecdote would then be coupled with statistics showing problems with voter rolls not being purged to remove voters who had died or moved, leaving open the potential for fraudulent voting at the polls. Finally, the group would claim that the amount of such voter fraud is hard to quantify, because it is after all illegal conduct, hidden from the public. Given this great potential for mischief, and without evidence of actual mischief, allegedly reasonable initiatives such as purging voter rolls and requiring ID seemed the natural solution.
That was more or less what I remember Fred doing.

And again, of course, there's little or no evidence of voter fraud at all.
Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.
Didja catch that last part, Fred?

May 21, 2007

Yeah, I have a couple of questions . . .

As you may have heard, the spokesperson for the Allegheny County Democratic Committee (ACDC), Dianna Wentz, will be subbing for Lynn Cullen today on WPTT 1360AM (live streaming here).

Wentz will be interviewing her coworkers, ACDC Chair Jim Burn and Executive Director Ian Harlow, “about all the changes and progress being made at the County Committee."

The number to call in to WPTT is 412-333-1360.

Here's a few questions that might be interesting to ask (and also cover some important issues that I never got around to posting about during the hubbub of 2pj's election coverage):
1) Considering that in three of the most hotly contested races Dowd vs. Bodack, Kraus vs. Koch, and Carlisle vs. EVERYONE, the winning candidates in two of those races were not ACDC endorsed and in the third, the winner got ACDC's endorsement only after their first choice was disqualified, how can that bode well for Committee's endorsement process and the Committee's influence over voters? (Making these races even less traditional and old school is the fact that all three winning campaigns had female campaign managers.)

2) How are we supposed to believe that there is a "new Democratic Party" and that the "old machine is gone" as Mr. Burn stated in an article that he wrote for the Post-Gazette when a candidate for Judge, Debra Todd, seemingly fired a campaign staffer, Jason Phillips, at the behest of the Committee because he blew the whistle on the Koch campaign? Even if that's not why she did it, it certainly had the appearance of impropriety of one endorsed candidate helping out another endorsed candidate at the Committee's request.

3) There have been rumors out there that ACDC plans to make their endorsement process even more draconian by either strengthening punishment for Committee members who support unendorsed candidates, or worse still, enacting rules to punish candidates who seek endorsement, lose the endorsement and run anyway. If true, that would seem to make our primaries nearly completely irrelevant Can you state for the record that the Committee is not planning to do either of those rules changes?

UPDATE: You might want to save Q2 for hour 3, when it sounds like Todd will be a guest.

Another Shooting in America

This time in Idaho.

With the First Presbyterian Church wrapped in yellow crime scene tape, parishioners had to go elsewhere to mourn the victims of a shooting rampage that has stunned this quiet college town.

A gunman sprayed dozens of bullets into a courthouse, killing a police officer and wounding a sheriff's deputy and a civilian, then went to a nearby church where he apparently killed a church sexton and himself, police said.

Gee, if only there'd been someone armed in the area of the courthouse. Then surely the shooter would have been stopped before killing that police officer and before wounding that sheriff's deputy.

More Falwell Fallout

I would have written this yesterday, but I didn't think of it until I saw that Sue over at Pghlesbian.com posted it. So, of course, it would have been MY original idea hadn't someone else thought of, and posted it, first.

Sue spotted this "affirmation of Falwell" by the lovely Ann Coulter where the prominently Ann Coulter writes:
Let me be the first to say: I ALWAYS agreed with the Rev. Falwell.
Ok, then. Now that that's been established, let's take a further, deeper look into the annals of Falwell's rhetorical history (anyone catching the pun, go buy yourself a pop-tart). Luckily Martin Lewis over at the Huffingtonpost has compiled a list of neat things Falwell said. And thanks to Ann, we now know she agrees with them. All of them:

God is a Republican.

Jesus was the First American.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a phony.

The Bible is the inerrant...word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history...

The (gay-oriented) Metropolitan Community Churches are brute beasts and a vile and Satanic system that will one day be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven...


Thus Spake Jerry.

May 19, 2007

Congressman Doyle Explains

This bubbled up over at Talkingpointsmemo yesterday and they must've found it important because it was tagged as the day's "must read." The posting starts with this:
It would be wrong to call the House ethics committee incompetent. Because, really, it ably strives to make itself as irrelevant and impotent as possible.
And links to an article (sub. req.) at The Hill that begins like this:
The House ethics committee has declared that an earmark requested by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) to build a commuter transit center near a handful of properties he owns would not be an impermissible financial conflict because any benefit to Calvert would be shared by other similarly situated landowners.

Well, that's not exactly what they said, but more on that later. The letter to Calvert can be found here, by the way.

As much as I have the greatest respect for the Talkingpointsmemo group of websites, I think they may have missed the mark on this one as the facts tell (at the very least) a different tale.

And since, as it turns out, my own representative, Congressman Mike Doyle, is actually on the House Ethics Committee, I decided to drop him an e-mail for a chat on the matter. And though I'm just a poor wayfaring blogger, he got back in contact straightened out a few things.

First thing he said was the reporting was "far off base" and quickly added that the fact that Calvert went to the ethics committee with this earmark in the first place was due to the transparency reforms implemented by the new Democratic leadership when they took control of the House in January, 2007.

From the Ethics Committee website:

The House Rules for the 110th Congress changed the Code of Official Conduct regarding earmarks. This provision requires that a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner who requests an earmark or a limited tax or tariff benefit to provide certain information regarding the request and its purpose to the committee of jurisdiction. An Advisory Memorandum providing guidance in this matter was released on March 27, 2007.
By the way, here's the "Advisory Memorandum" mentioned above.

According to Doyle, Calvert would not have had to approach the ethics committee in the 109th Congress and it would not have been as clear who would have popped an earmark like that into a budget prior to these recent Democratic reforms. It just never would have been this out in the open previously.

In fact, Doyle said, Calvert went to the committee to cover his ass about that earmark because of the transparency reforms.

Doyle clarified a few other things as well. The letter to Calvert was actually from the committee counsel, not from the ethics committee itself as the matter was never actually before the committee itself. The letter was a response to an inquiry by Calvert. He added that these sorts of inquiries are now "routine" and that there are probably 100 advisory requests pending "even as we speak."

Let's get on to specifics. TPMMucker Paul Keil writes that Calvert's properties were "in walking distance" to the proposed transit center. Well if you take a look at the letter to Calvert, you get the actual distances that Keil regards as "walking distance." There's one property a tenth of a mile away. Ok that's certainly walking distance.

But the next closest properties listed, a mini-storage facility and a multi-tenant building, are each a half-mile away. The next closest, an office/retail building is seven-tenths of a mile away. Then there's a property eight-tenths of a mile away. Then two properties each more than a mile away. That's walking distance?

Then there's the conclusions of the committee counsel itself. It goes a little beyond what Keil wrote. The conclusion is that since they could find no "anticipated or predictable" as opposed to "speculative" effect on the properties as a result of the earmark, there's no direct conflict. In other words, the effect has to be clearer than what had been presented. From the letter:
Furthermore, we recognize that Members typically own a personal residence or other types of property in their Congressional district, and that one of a Member's principal responsibilities is to promote the interests of the district, including by seeking funding for roads, utilities, and other public works projects.
And finally:
Based on the representations made to the Committee in this matter, we conclude that it is within your discretion for you to conclude that your properties do not constitute a financial interest in in the earmark supporting the Corona Transit Center. Of Primary consideration here, it is our understanding that the Corona Transit Center project will not immediately affect the use of any of your properties or provide any other direct or unique benefits to the properties.
Doyle decoded the first sentence of that paragraph. By putting it that way ("within your discretion") they were saying that while it may be technically legal, think twice about it because there may be the appearance that it's not right. And again it's that old transparency thing at play. Calvert approached the committee with details about the earmark and his properties near by. Now there's a paper trail and Doyle doubts that Calvert will go ahead with the earmark, now that everyone knows that he owns property near it.

It might be technically legal, but it just looks bad. And now everyone knows.

May 18, 2007

Mary Beth Buchanan - A Curious Plot Twist

Yesterday the Washington Post reported:
Unreleased government records obtained by the Washington Post show that the Justice Dept. listed 26 U.S. attorneys as candidates for firing, including nine who were fired in 2006. The roster of prosecutors is much longer than previously acknowledged.
Included on this list?

Our very own US Attorney, Mary Beth Buchanan.

The Post showed the evolving list of US Attorneys to be fired. On September 13, 2006 Kyle Sampson, AG Gonzales' Chief of Staff (and, ashamed as I am to note it, possible dayvoe-lookalike) Kyle D. Sampson sent a memo to the White House including nine US Attorneys recommended for firing. Incidentally, five of the nine would be dismissed. Buchanan shows up on a list compiled a couple weeks later by Michael Elston, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General "suggesting five other candidates."

The Washington Post points out elsewhere that:
The documents do not specify why removals were contemplated or why some prosecutors kept their jobs, the sources said.
And no one really knows anything about anything. From Pamela Reed Ward in today's P-G:
But Michael Elston, chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, said yesterday through his attorney that his e-mail was taken out of context.
Ok this is where it gets confusing.

The names that were included had been suggested to him by others, and Mr. Elston never thought anyone on that list should be fired.

"To the contrary, Mike's view is that the five U.S. Attorneys mentioned in the e-mail are among the Department's best," the statement said.

But a few paragraphs down:

According to attorney Robert Driscoll, Mr. Elston was asked in October 2006 by others in the Justice Department "if there were any concerns about U.S. Attorneys that senior department leadership was not aware of."

When Mr. Elston asked around, his attorney said, he was not specifically asking for names of people to be terminated, only for those who others might have a problem with.

So - these are the "Department's best" but Elston's looking for "any concerns" about them? How does that make sense? However that's a separate issue. The big problem is how (and why) these names made it, however temporarily, onto a "fire" list. From the Post:

The number of names on the lists demonstrates the breadth of the search for prosecutors to dismiss. The names also hint at a casual process in which the people who were most consistently considered for replacement were not always those ultimately told to leave.

When shown the lists of firing candidates late yesterday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), perhaps the most outspoken critic of the way Gonzales handled the prosecutor dismissals, said they "show how amok this process was."

The whole thing was a mess. A complete mess. When it wasn't politicizing the DoJ, the administration was just simply screwing it all up anyway.

Buchanan was asked for a comment:
"Simply put, there is no logical reason that my name would appear as part of an e-mail suggesting prosecutors to be considered for replacement," she said, noting that she's had "unprecedented success" during her tenure.
And the White House as well:
Yesterday, Justice Department officials issued a brief statement on the matter, saying the department would not publicly confirm whether any U.S. attorney was on one of Mr. Sampson's lists, which were used by him in the discussion process.

"Many names on these lists which have been shared with Congress, clearly did not represent the final actions or views of the Department's leadership or the Attorney General," the statement said.

"Whether they are on any list or not, U.S. Attorneys currently serving enjoy the full confidence and support of the Attorney General and Department of Justice."

Later in the day, Mr. Gonzales sent another statement, specifically about Ms. Buchanan, saying that she has his full confidence and support.
Considering, though, the drubbing Gonzales has been taking in the Congress recently, I'm not sure that's a recommendation one would want to keep in handy.

May 17, 2007

Bill Peduto Speaks About The Election Results

I was lucky enough to get a few minutes of Bill Peduto's time this afternoon (it was early and he said he was on his way to have lunch with Bruce Kraus. Geez, what a namedropper).

I'd seen something at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents that I wanted ask him about. I wanted to know whether at he felt his withdrawn mayoral candidacy had anything to do with Tuesday's election results. Sue obviously asked him the same thing. To Sue he answered:
Thanks, Sue - but it wasn't me - it was a few hundred activist Democrats (the lifeblood of our party) that never stopped campaigning after my announcement. They went to work for Bruce, Patrick, Heather and some to Brenda. Interesting to watch my friend Michael Nutter's victory in Philadelphia against the machine and the coming of age of the independent, progressive, reform democrats in Pittsburgh. Interesting times, indeed.
Leave it to Sue to beat me to the great question (damn foiled again!).

While it may be inticing to imagine some sort of plan at work here, Peduto pointed out that all the credit for the results should go to three places:

  • the candidates themselves
  • their respective staffs
  • the local network of political progressives
He pointed out (a number of times, by the way) that he had nothing to do with the rather nice events of earlier this week. He really wanted to emphasize the newly networked local activists.

Expanding on the topic of the election, he said that as expected there was a low voter turnout, but instead of just the usual folks turning up at the voting booths, "the network" kicked in and produced a whole new voting bloc and with it a new dramatically changed political landscape.

I asked him whether the shift may have been caused by the general anti-incumbent, "throw all the bums out" mood of Pennsylvania's electorate. But Peduto would have none of that. He emphasized the network of progressive communities - now active players in the game. These folks were organized, he said, via moveon.org, the Sierra Club, Democracy for Pittsburgh and so on. Once the stage was set, they went to work and the results showed on Tuesday.

I asked how this might effect City Council once the change officially arrives next year. He said the election was "a clarion call" to local elected officials. Incumbency is not as safe a place to be as it once was (or was once thought to be). Nor is ignoring the electorate.

The City Council

In today's P-G, he's quoted as saying that the council is no longer "8-1 for Luke." So I asked, what does he think the general political topography of the council will be?

He said that Jim Motznick, Tonya Payne and Darlene Harris are the Luke "loyalists." They're with Luke no matter what. With the two new arrivals (Kraus and Patrick Dowd) there'll be three independent votes. He pointed out that while the three may not agree on all issues, he expects each to vote according to what's good for the city, however each defines it, rather than what's good for a political career. In between are Dan Deasy and Doug Shields.

Peduto said he wasn't sure where Reverend Burgess fits in, but in any event, while he's assuming a three by three set up, he's hoping one or more of the three will join the progressive corner.

Look, another Triangle in Pittsburgh! Luke's Loyalists in one corner, the Progressives in another and...uh...maybe the other three in the third.

And with the new make up of the council, Peduto's looking to address (and pass) new legislation on Campaign Finance Reform, TIF reform and neighborhood economic development. More community empowerment projects beyond the casinos and arena, with greater attention paid to workforce development.

Some Curious Fallout

Looks like Len Bodack's blaming Peduto for his loss (yea, I can't understand it either). Peduto explained that it was Bodack's supporters who worked among the hardest against Peduto's mayoral candidacy. So once he withdrew and all those activists went to work elsewhere, it's probably just as worthwhile to say, as Peduto did, that "Lenny's supporters did it to him."

Although he said he had nothing to do with the election results, I caught a tone in his voice, a sparkle about the newly reordered political realities in town.

Perhaps I was right: Luke is in for some bad sledding.

Green Shirts at the Polls

After voting on Tuesday I chatted with a Bruce Kraus poll watcher. I had already heard reports of Koch "Green Shirts" being inside polling places (it's a no-no to campaign 50 feet from a polling place) so I asked the Kraus supporter if any had been to my polling place at 24th and Sarah Streets on the South Side. The supporter affirmed that he had witnessed that. (Let it be known that I took off my Kraus button prior to entering my polling place.)

Well, what do I see when I go over to Agent Ska's blog, The Ideas Bucket, but a video of my very own polling place showing a Koch Green Shirter going inside the polls!

According to Ska, the guy turned tail and went back out the door when, 'Suddenly, his buddy realized what was happening and yelled to him, "HEY! SHE'S TAKING PICTURES (name of friend goes here)!!!"'

In the comments section at The Bucket the guy yelling was described as "about 1000 years old" so I'm guessing it was my district's Committeeman who is a bit up there in years and was, as always, at the polls on election day.

You can view the video here:




You can read Ska's report on the taping here: http://agentska.blogspot.com/2007/05/agent-ska-reports.html and here: http://agentska.blogspot.com/2007/05/whatcha-doin-in-there.html.

I am sooo very happy that Koch lost and Kraus won. :-D

Bodack still holding out for a recount

According to this Post-Gazette article by Rich Lord:
Pittsburgh Councilman Len Bodack said today that he will await official certification of the results of Tuesday's Democratic primary before deciding whether to concede or challenge results that, unofficially, show him losing to challenger Patrick Dowd by 81 votes.
The vote was extremely close so I'm not surprised. But, correct me if I'm wrong, wouldn't a recount on the new machines simply spit back out the same totals that they did on election night? I mean there is no real paper trail to examine, right?

Another Election Post-Mortem

I remember hearing this joke when I was in grad school: Vermont is a state that has ten months of winter and two months of bad sledding.

Not sure why that joke stuck in my head this morning as I was reading Rich Lord, but for some reason "Luke's in for some bad sledding." kept bouncing back and forth inside my rapidly balding cranium. He begins:

Armed with 96 percent of the Democratic primary vote, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl comes to work today fortified by that strong showing at the polls.

But stripped of three council allies and facing an ambitious new controller, the mayor faces more uncertainty than at any time since his Sept. 1 ascent to office.

We all know the details by now. The P-G editorial board summed it up this way:
The winds of change blew through Pittsburgh City Council on election night and, with any luck, will help clear the air in city government. Three incumbents -- one under indictment and the other two backed by the party leadership -- were denied the Democratic nomination and will leave office at the end of the year.
And Lord quotes Peduto using that "Perfect storm" phrase again. ("Winds of change" "perfect storm" "bad sledding" - it's certainly raining weather metaphors today, isn't it?)

Anyway, Peduto goes on to describe the bad sledding facing Mayor Luke:
Mr. Peduto argued that the results represent "the transformation of Democratic politics" by a new infrastructure of progressive groups, campaign workers and candidates. Two of the ousted incumbents were endorsed by the Democratic Committee and the Allegheny County Labor Council, suggesting traditional power bases can't guarantee victory.
And Luke is no where but sitting on the traditional power base. Lord continues:
That's because a council that -- with the exception of Mr. Peduto -- has been mayor-friendly will get three independent voices. Mr. Kraus, particularly, has no debt to Mr. Ravenstahl, since mayoral pal and Redd Up Campaign Manager Kevin Quigley was campaigning for Mr. Koch on Tuesday.
On the other side of the Allegheny River, Jeremy Boren and Mike Wereschagin have a somewhat harsher, less diplomatically-put view:

Voters tossed a wrench into the city's Democratic machine Tuesday, rejecting three City Council incumbents, including two endorsed by the party committee.

"Not only did you change a third of council, but you had challengers win in three of the four races," said Moe Coleman, director emeritus of University of Pittsburgh's Institute of Politics and aide to then Pittsburgh Mayor Joseph Barr in the 1960s.

"I don't ever remember this happening before."

Democratic machine? What Democratic machine? Boren and Wereschagin get a choice nugget:

Bodack and Koch were the Democratic Party's endorsed candidates. Their loss shows the party apparatus needs to change its endorsement process or risk losing relevance, said Allegheny County Councilwoman Brenda Frazier. The Stanton Heights Democrat has won three elections without the party's backing.

"The old way of doing things certainly isn't working," said Frazier, 66, whose district stretches from the South Side to the North Side.

Frazier is quoted somewhat later:
As more candidates win without the party's backing, Frazier said, others will begin asking, "What good is it?"
If nothing else (and we know there was much more), that's possibly the most important long-term victory of the 15th. The old party aparatus suffered a shock.

It's no longer business as usual.

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting...

May 16, 2007

Night Talk - They Do It Again!

It happened again on this evening's Night Talk - but with an added twist.

For the second half of the show, Conservative Mike Pintek talked with Conservative Bill Green about yesterday's primary election returns.

In the first half of the show, Conservative Mike Pintek talked with Duquesne Law School Professor Bruce Ledewitz about his book American Religious Democracy: Coming to Terms with the End of Secular Politics where, at the end of the conversation, Pintek repeated one of the Clinton Myths that would not die:

Gov Bob Casey was denied the opportunity to speak at the 92 Democratic Convention because he was pro-life.

Pintek said it, Ledewitz agreed with it. Too bad they're both wrong.

There's an old New Republic article from 1996 (that's more than 10 years ago, Mike) that explained the whole thing. However since TNR's archives are behind a subscription wall, here's a snippet from a letter to the Editor from April of this year:
According to those who actually doled out the 1992 convention speaking slots, Casey was denied a turn for one simple reason: his refusal to endorse the Clinton-Gore ticket. "It's just not factual!" stammers James Carville, apoplectic over Casey's claims. "You'd have to be idiotic to give a speaking role to a person who hadn't even endorsed you."
Again, this was written 1996.

Good going, Mike. You're a wingnut through and through.

Primary 2007


New faces for Pittsburgh City Council: Kraus, Dowd, Burgess


After all the grief back in March over the Peduto mayoral pullout, this morning looks a lot brighter for progressives than anyone had a right to expect.

Machine hacks (There is no machine!) Len Bodack and Jeff Koch were ousted by progressives Patrick Dowd and Bruce Kraus. As other blogs have noted, it was the Pedutoistas who really got behind both these candidates after they no longer had Bill to support. Additionally the much embattled Twanda Carlisle lost heavily to Rev. Ricky Burgess -- instantly lowering the embarrassment quotient on Council. (Now what about Motznik?!)

While County Chief Executive Dan Onorato won easily as expected, his challenger Rick Swartz made a really decent showing with 13.45% of the vote. Especially when you consider that latecomer Swartz ran his campaign on $5,000 vs. over a million collected for Onorato.

I spoke to Swartz Campaign Manager Joy Sabl last night and according to her figures, Rick received about 3 votes for every dollar spent and nearly half the flyers distributed resulted in a vote -- a really good grassroots effort. Rick also received loads of good coverage last night (much owing to PCNC waiting for Onorato and Ravenstahl to show up resulting in their relying on Rick's after party for visuals). Republican curmudgeon Bill Green was quite complimentary towards Rick's grassroots efforts. Likely because he recently ran himself and has discovered exactly how much "fun" it is to got out collecting petition signatures in the coldest month of the year. Most importantly, Onorato's victory speech contained not only a gracious nod to Swartz, but the recognition that voters really do care about public transit. That was a real victory not just for Swartz, but for the residents of Allegheny County.

We also saw a progressive win in the City Controller's race with Michael Lamb getting over 42% of the vote.

And Luke Ravenstahl? Yep, he won resoundingly. But for those of you who have been made to feel crazy by the "Give the kid a chance" contingent, it should be noted that you no longer need to feel like a lone voice in the wilderness. A full 14% of the voters chose not to "I Like Luke." In addition to the 4% who chose to write in someone, another 9% chose to leave their ballot blank for Mayor (38,665 voted citywide for Controller, but only 35,705 voted citywide for Mayor). Moreover, write-in Republican candidate Mark DeSantis received over three times the number of votes needed to get on the ballot in November so it looks like Luke will have to face a debate after all (hehehehe).

All in all, a nice night for those of us who believe that ACDC is the problem.

UPDATE: I want to make sure to note that while I mentioned Bram's assertion that the Peduto folks helped the Dowd and Kraus campaigns, from what I saw, both those camps had tight, really well run efforts and candidates who were on fire. Kudos to their campaigns!

On top of that, as Smitty has commented, Koch really disintegrated in the last two weeks with all his crazy shit. Also, both campaigns paid loads of attention to the Burghosphere which doesn't hurt.

.

Election Coverage

Can someone please explain to me the reasoning behind Night Talk's election coverage last night?

In the first half hour, the Conservative talk show host Mike Pintek talked to Conservative Republican Bill Green about the election. Then in the second half hour the Conservative talk show host Mike Pintek talked to Conservative Republican (and former mayoral candidate) Joe Weinroth and Democrat Jim Burn (Chair of the Allegheny Democratic Committee) about the election.

Glad they decided to have on at least one person with a "D" beside his name (what, no Democratic or Republican women were available??) to talk about the election in this predominantly Democratic city - even if it was just the guy claiming "no machine politics" in Pittsburgh. But geez guys, he was one out of the four!

And if you chop it up by time, it was even smaller than that. He was only one third of the conversation during last half hour.

It's amazing how low John McIntire's old show has fallen.

May 15, 2007

Late Early Returns

The Burgh Report has been calling it for Bruce Kraus since right before 9:00 PM, and saying that Patrick Dowd may also squeek by.

Here's the numbers from the official County website:

MEMBER OF COUNCIL DISTRICT 3
(VOTE FOR NOT MORE THAN ) 1
(WITH 25 OF 42 Districts COUNTED 59.52%)
JEFFREY S KOCH. . . . . . . . . 898 42.38
BRUCE A KRAUS . . . . . . . . . 1,214 57.29
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 7 .33

MEMBER OF COUNCIL DISTRICT 7
(VOTE FOR NOT MORE THAN ) 1
(WITH 22 OF 47 Districts COUNTED 46.81%)
LEN BODACK . . . . . . . . . . 1,338 51.15
PATRICK DOWD . . . . . . . . . 1,273 48.66
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 5 .19
Total . . . . . . . . . 2,616

Another must read site is the Post-Gazette's Early Returns - live blogging!

I thought Dan Onorato's victory speech was quite gracious to challenger Rick Swartz. Dan claims he'll work with Rick in the future on public transit. If he actually does, it justifies Rick's entire campaign.

Sorry, but I don't have many kind things to say about Mayor Luke Ravenstah's victory speech. The P-G found him nervous, but my sis and I found him smug when he mentioned four times that he had won in March (The P-G seems to have heard, "You like me. You really, really like me," while we heard "Me, me, me, me").

Reverend Jerry Falwell In His Own Words

In case you hadn't yet heard, the Reverend Jerry Falwell passed away today. Of course, every death is sad and condolences must be extended to all the people who loved him.

Needless to say, I can not count myself among his admirers. Expect to see the usual reactions from the "fair and balanced" media. But instead of offering my own, I thought it better to assess the Reverend's legacy in his own words.

In a sermon in 1976, he reportedly said:
The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.
Presumably the "country" he's referring to is the USA. When did Christians come to "own" this country?

In the book Finding Inner Peace and Strength, he wrote:
The Bible is the inerrant...word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible,without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc.
And from this we have his support of creationism, Intelligent Design and a particularly religious strain of anti-intellectualism. This quotation has been around for a long long time:
Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.
It's related to the next quotation. According to the International Herald Tribune, at a rally in 1996 he said:
I want the members of Congress to understand...that the solution to America's serious moral and spiritual problem is not political. We're in need of a religious awakening.
I'd always found this line of reasoning somewhat troubling - especially after 9/11. Imagine you're on your way to get onto one of those planes knowing that it'll be crashing one of those buildings in a few hours. You know you're going to die and you know you're going to kill alot of innocent people. There had to be a point at of no return - a point at which you couldn't turn back. What keeps you from saying to yourself, "Gee this might not be a good idea?"

What kept those guys from turning back?

It was the depth of their faith. True that faith was certainly different from Reverand Falwell's, but in light of the devastation a group of guys caused by acting according to their deeply held religious beliefs, shouldn't 9/11 have been some sort of warning about acting so irreversably according to something so fleeting as faith?

Of course not. We all know Falwell's infamous finger pointing after 9/11:
I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen.
Though in fairness, he did apologize:
When I talked about God lifting the curtain of protection on our nation, I should have made it very clear that no one on this earth knows whether or not that occurred or did not occur.
Well, that certainly clears things up.

I could go on; about how homosexuals are "brute beasts" and one of the Teletubbies is gay and how the "the moslem faith teaches hate." But I think I made my point.

Reverend Jerry Falwell (August 11, 1933 - May 15 2007)

Pattern of Election Intimidation Reigns in District 3

From Pennsylvania League of Young Voters PAC:
Pittsburgh, PA: Reports are coming in that polling places all over district 3 members of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee are inside polling places acting as if judge of elections.

In another incident two 15 year old volunteers for the PA League of Young Voters PAC were harassed and antagonized by the Campaign Manager for Jeff Koch.
Also, individuals wearing Koch shirts have been sitting at tables with election workers at the polling places all over the district. At 9th and Sarah multiple individuals wearing Koch shirts sat inside the poll and a volunteer for the Kraus Campaign identified one as one of the suspended public works employees.

A number of other situations have been reported as well.
  • Kraus supporters have described the situation as having an air of intimidation

  • Voters called a volunteer and told her they were "afraid to vote"

  • Kevin Quigley was reported screaming at a Committee person who did not support Koch

  • Poll watchers are being turned away from inspecting voter rolls

  • This is my district and it comes as no surprise to me because I poll-watched for Bruce Kraus the last time he ran against Jeff Koch and the same crap happened then -- they even tried to have me kicked out.

    I'll be going to the polls in about an hour.

    Go ahead, bitches and try something -- make my day!

    New Party, My Ass

    If you've been paying any attention, you'd know it's time to regard an endorsement by the Allegheny County Democratic Committee more as a badge of shame than as a clue for who to vote.



    Don't reward bad behavior!

    UPDATE FROM THE FIELD:

    From Pittsburgh League of Young Voters PAC:
    Reports of Ceoffe strong arming people from other campaigns at St. Augustines in Dist 7. The Sheriff actually showed up with an injunction. He is verbally harassing (her exact words were more like "he is being an ass") our election protection volunteer. He took her picture (though to be fair she was video taping his antics).

    In district 9 we have a report of a committee person shoving an election protection volunteer (not even one of ours, one of the official non-partisan election protection people) and some other hijinks.
    From the Patrick Dowd Campaign:

    After a number of incidents of intimidation of elections officials at St. Augustine’s Parish, serving precincts 1,2, and 3 of the 6th Ward, the Allegheny County Sheriff’s office served a court order on the Ward Chair and all staff at the polling site prohibiting them from preventing poll watchers from entering the polling sites. The court order also instructed the elections officials to permit poll watchers to obtain information as permitted under law.

    “Elections officials and poll watchers are not to be interfered with when they are doing their jobs,” said Isobel Storch, attorney for the Dowd campaign.

    .

    Yea, The Surge is Working...

    From McClatchy:
    U.S. Embassy employees in Iraq are growing increasingly angry over what they say are inadequate security precautions in the heavily fortified Green Zone, where recent mortar and rocket attacks have claimed the lives of six people, including two U.S. citizens.
    And what are those security precautions?
    On May 3, the embassy warned Green Zone residents to keep outdoor travel to a minimum and "remain within a hardened structure to the maximum extent possible and strictly avoid congregating outdoors." The message ordered individuals "whose place of duty is outside a hardened structure or traveling a substantial distance outdoors" to wear bulletproof vests and helmets "until further notice."
    But of course, when someone important from DC arrives with a boatload of cameras:
    The officials also complained that important security precautions appeared to have been set aside during highly publicized official visits. During a March 31 visit from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a high-profile presidential candidate, the embassy lifted a requirement that bulletproof vests and helmets be worn at all times. When a rocket landed outside the U.S. Embassy while Vice President Dick Cheney and several reporters visited last week, no warning sirens were sounded.

    Imagine the news reports of a warning siren sounding during Cheney's speech in Bagdhad.

    Then there are the "tin can" trailers, where the employees sleep, whose sides have been reinforced with sandbags, but nothing has been done for the roofs. The cost is prohibitive, you know.

    Then there's the experienced diplomats who are deciding against working in such a dangerous place. So important posts are being filled with people not qualified to fill them. One staffer is quoted as saying that if this were any place else, they'd all be sent home.

    This last quote sums it all up:

    "I can't sleep, I can't eat," another official said. "My life should be worth more than achieving this government's agenda."
    Yep. It's going well over there in Baghdad.

    Last Minute Nastiness from Tweedledum and Tweedledee

    Tweedledum (Koch):

    Councilman Jeff Koch's last minute flyer dubs his opponent, Bruce Kraus, a "liar" twice. Koch offers not one bit of proof or backup of any kind to justify that claim. Of course, Koch makes no mention of his illegal: T-shirts, campaign calls, and donations. Kraus' last flyer, on the other hand, offers a gracious thanks to his supporters.

    Please vote for Bruce Kraus in Pittsburgh City Council District 3.




    Tweedledee (Bodack):

    Councilman Len Bodack delivers another despicable letter with the seal of our fair city. This one compares his opponent, Patrick Dowd, to Joe McCarthy and tries to paint him as a Republican. Lenny also tries to paint himself as a "progressive." Yes, the anti choice, anti gay candidate is the real progressive -- I think I just vomited a little in my mouth.

    Please vote for Patrick Dowd in Pittsburgh City Council District 7.



    May 14, 2007

    Meanwhile, Back In Iraq

    The death toll continues to rise.

    As of today (05/14/07), 3,396 American servicemen and women have been killed (3,384 confirmed by the DOD) in dubya's war in Iraq

    As of today (05/14/07), 26,188 American servicemen and women have been wounded in dubya's war in Iraq.

    As of today (05/14/07) 165 Servicemen and women from Pennsylvania have been killed in dubya's war in Iraq.

    Last month (April, 2007) lived up to T.S. Eliot and produced 117 American servicemen and women dead - an average of 3.9 per day. The deadliest month in 4 years.

    As of this morning (7:19am on 05/14/07) the estimated cost of the war is more than: $425,590,000,000.

    As the first lady has already told us the reaction she and dubya have to the bad news coming out of Iraq:
    And believe me, no one suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this.
    Via BarbinMd, what was dubya doing yesterday?

    Why, conducting a Sousa march, of course! From the AP:
    JoAnn Falletta was doing what a conductor should — concentrating on the orchestra in front of her. No wonder it took her a few seconds on Sunday to realize someone behind her was motioning for a try.
    President Bush.

    "Smiling at me kind of devilishly," Falletta said.

    She gave him her baton and stepped aside.

    Gesturing exuberantly, the president led the orchestra during part of its performance of "Stars and Stripes Forever."
    And when he was finished?
    Just before the music ended, Bush turned to Falletta, who stood on a step below him, kissed the top of her head and left without saying a word.
    No one suffers bad news like ole dubya!