Prosecute the torture.

July 31, 2007

O'Hanlon, The Times, and The Surge

I called in to NightTalk last night and was on hold for about 40 minutes. Never made it on the air.

Mike Pintek (sitting in John McIntire's old chair but by no means filling it) was discussing this New York Times op-ed with Earl Tilford, a military historian from Grove City College.

By the end of the hour, their political exchange had shriveled up into an echo chamber discussion on the Book of Revelations (Pintek: "Don't they know that the Jews win?" is what I heard).

Oh god, I thought. How completely removed from reality can a political discussion be when its foundation is the last book The Bible? Hitchens is right: Religion poisons everything.

Here's how the op-ed begins:

VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

Pintek, being Pintek, took from the op-ed and presented the viewers with the meme that the surge in Iraq is working. I was calling in to say, in essence, not so fast.

The primary reason is found here. Mr. O'Hanlon (one of the two authors of the op-ed) is from the Brookings Institution. It turns out that the Brookings Institution maintains a database on statistics from the Iraq war and these statistics conflict with what O'Hanlon wrote for the Times. Oh yea, O'Hanlon is also responsible for the Brookings data.

From the Brookings web site:
Michael O'Hanlon spearheads the Iraq Index project at Brookings, with assistance from Research Assistant Jason H. Campbell. O'Hanlon is a Foreign Policy Studies senior fellow and served on a U.S. government delegation to Iraq to review post-war progress.
Here's the Brookings Iraq Index (dated, July 23 2oo7). This is from page 4 of that document:

With what promised to be a pivotal summer now more than half over, the situation in Iraq remains tenuous at best. Even with all surge forces in place and operational, the modest progress made in the security sphere thus far has not had the hoped-for subsequent influence on the political and economic sectors. Adding to the pressure is the steadily increasing demands stateside for a change in strategy. Indeed, the “political clocks” in Washington and Baghdad are perhaps farther apart today than they have ever been.

From a security standpoint, having the full allotment of surge troops in theater has allowed for intensified coalition operations in and around Baghdad aimed at rooting out militants from their sanctuaries. Initial reports indicate that these have led to a decrease in the levels of violence in these areas. However, violence nationwide has failed to improve measurably over the past 2-plus months, with a resilient enemy increasingly turning its focus to softer targets outside the scope of the surge. And while the number of internally displaced persons has declined, it has done so not as a result of security improvements but because there are fewer places for Iraqis to run with a number of provinces unable to accept any more refugees. In assessing the overall sentiment of the Iraqi people recently, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker summed it up in one word: fear. [emphasis added]

Never mind that O'Hanlon and Pollack (hardly critics of dubya's war) have been wrong many many many other times about the war in Iraq.

Sure Mike. The surge is working.

July 30, 2007

So it was Data Mining!

This weekend, the NYTimes reported:
A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.
Later on in the article, there's some interesting stuff.
The Justice Department announced in January that eavesdropping without warrants under the Terrorist Surveillance Program had been halted, and that a special intelligence court was again overseeing the wiretapping. The N.S.A., the nation’s largest intelligence agency, generally eavesdrops on communications in foreign countries. Since the 1978 passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, any eavesdropping to gather intelligence on American soil has required a warrant from the special court.
In that it's a felony (an "offense") to eavesdrop in any way other than what's allowed by FISA. And:
In addition, court approval is required for the N.S.A. to search the databases of telephone calls or e-mail records, usually compiled by American phone and Internet companies and including phone numbers or e-mail addresses, as well as dates, times and duration of calls and messages. Sometimes called metadata, such databases do not include the content of the calls and e-mail messages — the actual words spoken or written.
Now look at this part:
The first known assertion by administration officials that there had been no serious disagreement within the government about the legality of the N.S.A. program came in talks with New York Times editors in 2004. In an effort to persuade the editors not to disclose the eavesdropping program, senior officials repeatedly cited the lack of dissent as evidence of the program’s lawfulness.
I seem to recall that the Times took some heat because it knew about the warrantless domestic surveillance before the 2004 election - and yet didn't say anything. Do you think dubya's administration was lying then about the "lack of dissent" in order to bolster the Republicans' chances in November of that year? For an administration that politicizes everything, I wouldn't be surprised at all.

Mr. Gonzales defended the surveillance in an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2006, saying there had been no internal dispute about its legality. He told the senators: “There has not been any serious disagreement about the program that the president has confirmed. There have been disagreements about other matters regarding operations, which I cannot get into.”

By limiting his remarks to “the program the president has confirmed,” Mr. Gonzales skirted any acknowledgment of the heated arguments over the data mining. He said the Justice Department had issued a legal analysis justifying the eavesdropping program.

The dispute, it seems, was not about the program itself, but the data that the program sifted through. Yea, that makes sense.

But even the Times misses one:
On Tuesday, to respond to Mr. Comey’s account, Mr. Gonzales testified in a Senate appearance that he went to the hospital only after meeting with Congressional leaders about the impending deadline for the reauthorization. He said the consensus was that the program should go on, so he felt he had no choice but to seek Mr. Ashcroft’s approval.
Where's the mention that this is also completely wrong? Take a look:

Tom Daschle. Jay Rockefeller. And now Nancy Pelosi.

That makes three members of the Gang of Eight -- the bipartisan congressional leadership briefed about President Bush's warrantless surveillance -- to dispute Alberto Gonzales's testimony that the Gang demanded the surveillance continue after a March 2004 briefing telling them that acting Attorney General James Comey refused to reauthorize the program.

Perhaps it depends on what the definition of "consensus" is.

From Mike Luckovich at the Atlanta Journal Constitution

July 29, 2007

New York Times Editorial: Impeach Gonzales

Today:

As far as we can tell, there are three possible explanations for Mr. Gonzales’s talk about a dispute over other — unspecified — intelligence activities. One, he lied to Congress. Two, he used a bureaucratic dodge to mislead lawmakers and the public: the spying program was modified after Mr. Ashcroft refused to endorse it, which made it “different” from the one Mr. Bush has acknowledged. The third is that there was more wiretapping than has been disclosed, perhaps even purely domestic wiretapping, and Mr. Gonzales is helping Mr. Bush cover it up.

Democratic lawmakers are asking for a special prosecutor to look into Mr. Gonzales’s words and deeds. Solicitor General Paul Clement has a last chance to show that the Justice Department is still minimally functional by fulfilling that request.

If that does not happen, Congress should impeach Mr. Gonzales.

Impeach.

The Sunday Jack Kelly Posting

This one will be short, as many aspects of this story, frankly, disgust me.

Even when he's fact-checking someone else (good to know J-Kel at least knows the concept of "fact-checking") he can't help but spin things himself. Case in point, this sunday's column.

He's telling the tale of a piece found in the New Republic called "Shock Troops." In that piece the then-pseudonymous author (turns out his name is Scott Thomas Beauchamp) describes some nasty things he and some others have been doing over there in Iraq.

Here's how Jack Kelly details one incident:
Next he described finding the remains of children in a Saddam-era mass grave uncovered when his unit was constructing a combat outpost: "One private ... found the top part of a human skull ... He marched around with the skull on his head ... No one was disgusted. Me included."
And his criticism of it later on in the piece:

No mass graves have been discovered during the time Pvt. Beauchamp has been at FOB Falcon.

Sounds pretty cut and dried for the column doesn't it? Beauchamp is discredited because he claimed to have found a Saddam-era "mass grave" when it was impossible for him to do so. Nice work, Jack. But let's take a look and see what was actually written in "Shock Troops":

About six months into our deployment, we were assigned a new area to patrol, southwest of Baghdad. We spent a few weeks constructing a combat outpost, and, in the process, we did a lot of digging. At first, we found only household objects like silverware and cups. Then we dug deeper and found children's clothes: sandals, sweatpants, sweaters. Like a strange archeological dig of the recent past, the deeper we went, the more personal the objects we discovered. And, eventually, we reached the bones. All children's bones: tiny cracked tibias and shoulder blades. We found pieces of hands and fingers. We found skull fragments. No one cared to speculate what, exactly, had happened here, but it was clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort.
Notice anything missing? Like the phrase "mass grave"? Beauchamp never claimed to have found a "mass grave" only a "Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort." Turns out that this part of the story has actually been corroborated. Here. At the conservative's conservative-leaning Weekly Standard, some criticisms of "Shock Troops" have been printed. The second one states:
There was a children's cemetery unearthed while constructing a Combat Outpost (COP) in the farm land south of Baghdad International Airport. It was not a mass grave. It was not the result of some inhumane genocide. It was an unmarked cometary where the locals had buried children some years back. There are many such unmarked cemeteries in and around Baghdad. The remains unearthed that day were transported to another location and reburied.
Now take a look at the New Republic piece. It fits, doesn't it?

So it is Jack Kelly who is wrong here, isn't it. He claimed that Beauchamp said he found a "mass grave" (except he never made that claim). And it turns out that according to a critic of Beauchamp's, they did find a children's cemetery (just like Beauchamp said they did).

Another incident. Here's what Kelly writes:

Finally, Pvt. Beauchamp described another friend "who only really enjoyed driving Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. He took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market, and his favorite target: dogs."

Pvt. Beauchamp described how his friend killed three dogs in one day: "He slowed the Bradley down to lure the first kill in, and, as the diesel engine grew quieter, the dog walked close enough for him to jerk the machine hard to the right and snag its leg under the tracks."

And his criticism a little while later:
It is physically impossible for the driver of a Bradley to see a dog to the immediate right of his vehicle.
Now what Beauchamp actually wrote:
I know another private who really only enjoyed driving Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. He took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market, and his favorite target: dogs. Occasionally, the brave ones would chase the Bradleys, barking at them like they bark at trash trucks in America--providing him with the perfect opportunity to suddenly swerve and catch a leg or a tail in the vehicle's tracks. He kept a tally of his kills in a little green notebook that sat on the dashboard of the driver's hatch. One particular day, he killed three dogs. He slowed the Bradley down to lure the first kill in, and, as the diesel engine grew quieter, the dog walked close enough for him to jerk the machine hard to the right and snag its leg under the tracks. The leg caught, and he dragged the dog for a little while, until it disengaged and lay twitching in the road. A roar of laughter broke out over the radio. Another notch for the book. The second kill was a straight shot: A dog that was lying in the street and bathing in the sun didn't have enough time to get up and run away from the speeding Bradley. Its front half was completely severed from its rear, which was twitching wildly, and its head was still raised and smiling at the sun as if nothing had happened at all.
Bauchamp a paragraph later says he didn't see the third kill. On a simply logical basis, not being able to see immediately to the right does not mean that the driver of the Bradley couldn't snag a dog's leg. Just that it would be very difficult. And notice that that's not the only way this person killed dogs. The second kill was a straight one, Beauchamp wrote. The Bradley simply rolled over it. I am guessing the driver could see straight a head.

None of this is to say that everything that Beauchamp wrote is true. All I am saying is that Jack Kelly, former "National Security Correspondent" for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, can't help but manipulate the facts in order to support his politically motivated conclusions. He should be doing better work than this. In the meantime, I'll just go with what Andrew Sullivan wrote about the hysteria on the right side of the blogosphere on this story:
Look: I don't know the roots of everything Scott Thomas Beauchamp has written. If there are aspects to his first-person accounts that do not pan out, we need to know. But so far, there's no evidence of anything wrong. So far, the hysteria says far more about the hysterics than about TNR.
And if atrocities in Iraq are what you're looking for, check this article from The Nation. One example:

We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photographs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.

"Take a picture of me and this motherfucker," a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía's squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.

"Damn, they really fucked you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.

The scene, Sergeant Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.

Maybe Jack Kelly should have written about that instead.

July 28, 2007

A Hindu Prayer In The US Senate

Remember this?


Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that US Hindu organizations are asking the presidential candidates to denounce the protest that occured in the Senate chamber.

Somehow I'm guessing that none of the 3 Evolution-doubters among the Republicans will denounce the free exercise of religion that took place.

But what about the Dems? Anyone have any word on whether Clinton, Obama, Edwards, et al have said anything about it?

July 27, 2007

Join the Party with Howard Dean!

SAVE THE DATE

Heather Arnet
Jennifer Brady
Kirk Burkley
Leo M. Castagnari
Dan Cerrone
Charlie Datz
Christina Dixon & Geoffrey Webster
Patrick Dowd
John Hagan
Cris Hoel
Thomas Juring
Jeff Meagher
Khari Mosley
Heidi & Andrew Norman
Liane Ellison Norman & Robert Norman
Lazar Palnick
Lindsay Patross
Richard Pearson
Vickie Pisowicz
Lynda Wrenn
Danika Wukich
R. Clayton Wukich
and

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
Chairman, Democratic National Committee

Invite you to

JOIN THE PARTY!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Church Brew Works
3525 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA

4:30 PM
"Join the Party" Reception
$25 per person

RSVP Here

Speaking of avatars...

Speaking of avatars, you can create your own Simpsons cartoon you at the movie website.

Here's mine:


(h/t to Three Rivers Online.)

One Spy Program or Two?

That's what they're asking over at TPMCafe.

Alberto Gonzales' testimony that there was "no serious disagreement" within the Bush Administration about the NSA warrantless surveillance program has left senators sputtering and fulminating about the attorney general's apparent prevarications. But a closer examination of Gonzales' testimony and other public statements from the Administration suggest that there may be a method to the madness.

There's a lot of evidence to suggest that Gonzales's careful, repeated phrasing to the Senate that he will only discuss the program that "the president described" was deliberate, part of a concerted administration-wide strategy to conceal from the public the very broad scope of that initial program. When, for the first time, Program X (as we'll call it, for convenience's sake) became known to senior Justice Department officials who were not its original architects, those officials -- James Comey and Jack Goldsmith, principally -- balked at its continuation. They did not back down until the program had undergone as-yet-unspecified but apparently significant revisions. But when President Bush announced what he would call the "Terrorist Surveillance Program' in December 2005, he left the clear impression that the program had always functioned the same way since its 2001 inception.

It's always nice to see Hamlet referenced in the news. In the play, Polonius notices a certain rationality in Hamlet's seeming insanity:
Though this be madness, yet there is a method in't. (Hamlet II, ii, 206)
But let's get back to the current madness, this administration.

It's an interesting article. The main point being that the domestic surveillance program as originally conceived and put into operation is very different from the one dubya described in Dec, 2005.
In essence, the issue is this: if Gonzales succeeds in convincing the committee that there really is a material distinction between the program as it existed before and after Comey’s intervention, he won't just save himself from perjury. He will perhaps have preserved an administration strategy of concealing the scope of Program X from the public and most of Congress -- making it appear that the program that Bush disclosed in December 2005, incorporating Comey's objections, is the same program that existed since October 2001, long before Comey put the brakes on at least some aspects of it. That may be at the heart of the White House's claim of executive privilege to prevent the Senate Judiciary Committee from seeing documents detailing the genesis of Program X.
I don't think I'm following this, however as there seems to be a contradiction. If Gonzales succeeds in convincing the committee there is a distinction between the programs (pre- and post- Comey's intervention), then he will possibly be preserving the administrations strategy of concealing the scope of the program as originally implemented and keeping up the appearance that the two programs (pre- and post-Comey's intervention) are the same?

Am I reading it wrong? Am I reading too deeply? Should I just drink the kool-aid and blame it all on Clinton (doesn't matter which - Hill or Bill) and the "Democrat Congress" instead?

Quoted In The P-G!

Go take a look at Tony Norman's column today.

The column is about how someone calling him (or her)self "Evergrey" used Tony's picture on a local architecture forum.

I get the whole eighth paragraph.

Go read the column - it'll do you good.

July 26, 2007

More Republicans Repudiate The Bush Doctrine

From the Washington Post today.

Let's set up the authors' conservative bona fides, shall we? This is the piece's first sentence:
One of us was appointed commandant of the Marine Corps by President Ronald Reagan; the other served as a lawyer in the Reagan White House and has vigorously defended the constitutionality of warrantless National Security Agency wiretaps, presidential signing statements and many other controversial aspects of the war on terrorism.
I'm not much of a fan of those last points, but I don't have to be. The first sentence settles these two as anything but your run of the mill Democrats. It's the second sentence of the piece that I found most intriguing:
But we cannot in good conscience defend a decision that we believe has compromised our national honor and that may well promote the commission of war crimes by Americans and place at risk the welfare of captured American military forces for generations to come.
Intruiging because of what that decision was.
Last Friday, the White House issued an executive order attempting to "interpret" Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Convention] with respect to a controversial CIA interrogation program. The order declares that the CIA program "fully complies with the obligations of the United States under Common Article 3," provided that its interrogation techniques do not violate existing federal statutes (prohibiting such things as torture, mutilation or maiming) and do not constitute "willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual in a manner so serious that any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency."
Sounds kinda complicated, so the authors of this piece sum things up.
In other words, as long as the intent of the abuse is to gather intelligence or to prevent future attacks, and the abuse is not "done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual" -- even if that is an inevitable consequence -- the president has given the CIA carte blanche to engage in "willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse."
So you can add "war crimes" to the long list of dubya's presidential sins (it's been on my list since the first civilian casualty in the so-called "Shock and Awe" phase of the his bloody war) as well as "rogue nation."

Wasn't this the crowd that was going to restore dignity to the White House? Weren't they going to restore law and order to a formerly lawless (or so they said) White House?

Guess again.

Josh Marshall on Impeachment

Over at Talkingpointsmemo, Josh Marshall has an interesting posting on impeachment. In the spirit of full disclosure and as if it's not at all obvious let me reiterate that I'm all for it. Josh ain't so sure. His reasons:
Minor reasons are that it's late in the president's term and that I think impeachment itself is toxic to our political system -- though it can be less toxic than the high officials thrown from office. My key reason, though, is that Congress at present can't even get to the relatively low threshold of votes required to force the president's hand on Iraq.
Of course, he's right. And it's shameful that Congress hasn't been able to flex its constitutional muscles and force dubya's hand on his bloody war. But that doesn't mean the push for impeachment should stop. Someone has to be out front pushing for what's right and what's constitutional. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Josh's faith in his decision has been faltering a little and he gives some reasons:

This was the exchange in which Gonzales simply refused to answer one of Sen. Schumer's questions -- didn't say he didn't remember, didn't invoke a privilege, just said, No. Not going to discuss that with you. Move on to the next question.

It's not that this one incident is a matter of such consequence in and of itself -- though I would say it's pretty consequential. But it captures pretty fully and in one small nugget the terrain the White House is now dragging us on to.

As I explained in that post, testifying before Congress is like testifying in a court of law. The questions aren't voluntary. You have to answer every one. You can invoke a privilege and the court's will decide whether the argument has merit. But no one can simply decline to answer a question. And yet this is exactly what Gonzales did.

And in general:

Without going into all the specifics, I think we are now moving into a situation where the White House, on various fronts, is openly ignoring the constitution, acting as though not just the law but the constitution itself, which is the fundamental law from which all the statutes gain their force and legitimacy, doesn't apply to them.

If that is allowed to continue, the defiance will congeal into precedent. And the whole structure of our system of government will be permanently changed.

Which is precisely my point. Let's assume the next president is a Democrat, would any Republican want the next administration to ignore the constitution as flippantly and as flagrantly as this one does? The fact that they're still protecting their president, and placing party above the nation is evidence enough of the Republicans' political crudity.

Eventually some compromise will take place and what it will entail no one can say at this point but there's a large chunk of the American People itching for impeachment right now. For example, in the last few days, a the Takoma Park city council (are you reading this, Council President Shields?) voted to call for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. There are 81 other municipalities (at this point) with similar resolutions passed.

If everyone screaming "Impeach" just closed up shop and went home because there aren't enough votes in the Congress, then what would become of the inevitable compromise?

Even if the bastards are never impeached, pushing for it will guarantee something that might not happen if those collective voices were not raised.

More Trouble For AG Gonzales

From the AP:

Documents show that eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, come as senators consider whether a perjury investigation should be opened into conflicting accounts about the program and a dramatic March 2004 confrontation leading up to its potentially illegal reauthorization.

A Gonzales spokesman maintained Wednesday that the attorney general stands by his testimony.

I saw this on Olbermann last night. More details:

At a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly testified that the issue at hand was not about the terrorist surveillance program, which allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspects in the United States without receiving court approval.

Instead, Gonzales said, the emergency meetings on March 10, 2004, focused on an intelligence program that he would not describe.

But if the document, a four page memo from the Director of National Intelligence, is right, then AG Gonzales is lying. If the memo is incorrect then there's some other intelligence gathering program out there.

Looks like it's the first one. I guess an AG who's perjured himself is better than another illegal domestic surveillance program, right?

Right?

July 25, 2007

So Many Lies...

I've been having a bit of difficulty choosing which clip of AG Alberto Gonzales to use. Should it be this one that shows him refusing to answer Senator Shumer's questions?



Or this one where he's either lying OR admitting that there is more than one intelligence gathering system (other than the one that's already known about)?



To remind everyone, it was this news item from December 2005 about how the NSA was instructed to conduct warrantless surveillance on US Citizens that compelled us (if my memory serves me correctly) to post that big word IMPEACH above the 2PJ banner.

Now either AG Gonzales is actively lying to a Congressional Committee OR there are more surveillance programs that the Bush administration hasn't told us about.

Impeach. Impeach. Impeach.

Best to start with Gonzales

July 24, 2007

It's official: Jeff Koch is a widdle pootie cat!

As I posted last week, Pittsburgh City Council took their first vote on koi pond-owner Councilman Jim Motznik's cat licensing bill last Wednesday with the final vote scheduled for today's legislative meeting.

The last vote was a four to four tie with District 3 Councilman Jeff Koch abstaining but promising to choose sides today.

So was Koch fish or feline?

As the headline suggests, Koch cast his vote with the kitty lovers:

From the Post-Gazette:
"The ordinance, the way it's written, is just an extra taxing burden on those who follow the law," Mr. Koch said. He predicted that irresponsible cat owners, whose pets are more likely to cause property damage to neighbors, would just ignore the measure.

"If I thought for one minute that this would help control the population of wild cats, I would be for it," he said.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris argued that an existing code provision requiring that cats carry identification -- be it a tag, tattoo or microchip -- was enough.

Hooray for the purty pooties!
(...And Councilors Dan Deasy, Darlene Harris, Jeff Koch, Bill Peduto and Doug Shields!)

Jimmy Breslin on Impeachment

Pulitzer-prize winning writer Jimmy Breslin writes:

I am walking in Rosedale on this day early in the week while I wait for the funeral of Army soldier Le Ron Wilson, who died at age 18 in Iraq. He was 17 1/2 when he had his mother sign his enlistment papers at the Jamaica recruiting office. If she didn't, he told her, he would just wait for the months to his 18th birthday and go in anyway. He graduated from Thomas Edison High School at noon one day in May. He left right away for basic training. He came home in a box last weekend. He had a fast war.

The war was there to take his life because George Bush started it with bold-faced lies.

And uses the "I" word:

If Bush did this in Queens, he would be in court on Queens Boulevard on a murder charge.

He did it in the White House, and it is appropriate, and mandatory for the good of the nation, that impeachment proceedings be started. You can't live with lies. You can't permit them to be passed on as if it is the thing to do.

He goes on to debunk the idea that Impeachment would be somehow damaging to the nation. He ends the piece mentioning Sara Taylor, recently testifying as to why she won't answer some questions put to her by some Members of Congress while she was under oath, "I took an oath to uphold the president," she said.

That president had been in charge of a government that kidnapped, tortured, lied, intercepted mail and calls, all in the name of opposing people who are willing to kill themselves right in front of you. You have to get rid of a government like this. Ask anybody in Rosedale, where Le Ron Wilson wanted to live his young life. His grave speaks out that this is an impeachable offense.

Impeach.

Do I Even Need To?

According to a new poll out by the American Research Group, showing:

A total of 71% of Americans say they disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president according to the latest survey from the American Research Group.

Among all Americans, 25% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 71% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 23% approve and 73% disapprove.

Among Americans registered to vote, 27% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 70% disapprove. When it comes to the way Bush is handling the economy, 23% of registered voters approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 72% disapprove.

But here's the kicker:
This is the highest level of disapproval and lowest level of approval for the Bush presidency recorded in monthly surveys by the American Research Group.
I wonder how much lower this will go.

July 23, 2007

Delano's Interview with Melissa Hart

Posted on KDKA's website is Jon Delano's full interview with (god, I love writing this next part) former Member of the House of Representatives Melissa Hart. It can be found here.

Some early highlights:
Delano: Let me ask you, why do you think you lost in 2006?

Hart: I think part of it was, we didn't get to substance. The
campaign never really happened. It became an assassination more than a
campaign. And it's disapointing, I didn't run campaigns like that.

D: An assassination of you?

H: Oh, absolutely.

D: In what way?

H: Well, did you turn on your TV last fall? There was no opportunity
for any discussion. Any discussion that we had was drowned out by the
negative schlocky commercials.

D: You were characterized as being a supporter of President Bush and
former Senator Rick Santorum. I think the figure was 98% of the
time.

H: And what relevance was that? On what particular issues. No body
asked.
Let me step in here. Ms Hart's grasp on recent history is rather disappointing. One part that she is omitting, unfortunately, is something reported by the Rothenberg Report. I wrote about it here. As they say in the biz, she was "caught napping" until it was too late in that campaign. According to the Rothenberg Report (sub req, sorry) there was the pesky issue of some drum lessons that got in the way of her campaigning.

Let's remember that she refused to debate Altmire. Take a look at the ever astute Chris Potter (he of the CP) had to say last October 2006:

Mostly, however, he has attacked Hart for carrying water for the Bush Administration, especially where the war in Iraq is concerned. He has also castigated her for supporting free-trade agreements, which he contends hurt working people in the district.

So far, Hart has replied by saying ... well, not much, really. She's refused to debate Altmire. [Hart campaign manager Luke] Myslinski says a schedule conflict preempted one debate, and Hart refused to participate in one sponsored by the League of Women Voters because "Jason is a former member there." But Hart's campaign also declined a third debate whose sponsoring organization, the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce, has ties to a Hart campaign staffer. Altmire has offered to debate anyway, but Myslinski says, "If we did really well in the debate, he'd say it was rigged. We aren't putting ourselves out there like that." [emphasis in original]

And if that's too far out of the "mainstream media" (as the City Paper surely is) then there's this from the P-G:

Congresswoman Melissa Hart believes U.S. troops need to do more work in Iraq, while her Democratic challenger, Jason Altmire, suggests they should battle terrorism elsewhere.

The differences between them on the Iraqi war -- the Republican incumbent supportive of the Bush administration's approach, her opponent capturing the frustration with it voiced among some of the citizenry -- highlighted a side-by-side session yesterday. The two 4th Congressional District candidates took questions from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editors and reporters.

It was a rare joint appearance by them, as Ms. Hart has thus far rejected several invitations to publicly debate her opponent. The pair were respectful to each other, sticking to issues rather than personal attacks. [emphasis added]

So let's not settle in too too comfortably with this idea that there was "no discussion" especially since it was Melissa Hart who was refusing to debate.

YouTube/CNN Debates Tonight


Democratic presidential candidates face off tonight at 7:00 PM ET on CNN.

The hook for this debate?

The candidates will answer questions submitted to them by the public via YouTube.

While it's too late to submit video questions for tonight's debate, you still can submit one for the Republican candidate debate in September HERE.

IMPEACH CHENEY MONDAY!

FLOOD CONGRESS WITH CALLS TODAY, MONDAY, JULY 23RD


The following is a compilation of a couple different emails.

Easy actions below to email Congress now and Fax Congressman Conyers with one click TODAY!

The Impeachment Moment is Now

We've reached the impeachment moment for Vice President Dick Cheney. We've pushed the cosponsor list for H. Res. 333 up to 14.

Chairman John Conyers says that if we get 3 more Congress Members to get behind impeachment, he will start the impeachment proceedings.

Many Congress Members must be recognizing that there is no other path available. Cheney and Bush have repeatedly refused to comply with subpoenas, ordered former staffers not to comply with subpoenas, and announced that the Justice Department will not enforce contempt citations from Congress. When a special prosecutor attempted to hold this administration accountable, Cheney's chief of staff obstructed justice, and Cheney persuaded Bush to commute his sentence. There is no course left for Congress but impeachment.

On Monday, July 23rd, the fifth anniversary of the meeting that produced the Downing Street Minutes, Cindy Sheehan, Ray McGovern, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Ann Wright, Debra Sweet, Dave Lindorff, David Swanson, Jodie Evans, Medea Benjamin, Kevin Zeese, and Tina Richards will lead a march to Chairman Conyers office and not leave until he agrees to begin impeachment proceedings.

If you cannot be there, you can take two minutes on Monday and do two things: phone Chairman Conyers at 202-225-5126 and ask him to start the impeachment of Dick Cheney; and phone your own Congress Member at 202-224-3121 and ask them to immediately call Conyers' office to express their support for impeachment. Your Congress Member might be one of the three needed, not just to keep impeachment activists out of jail but to keep this nation from devolving into dictatorship.

Email your Congress Member ( http://www.democrats.com/peoplesemailnetwork/73 )

On Monday - Fax Congressman Conyers with one click ( http://www.peaceandjustice.it/ )

A great article with more information: Conyers: 3 More Congress Members and I'll Impeach can be found HERE.

HERE IS A LIST OF TOLL FREE CAPITOL HILL SWITCHBOARD NUMBERS:

1 (800) 828 - 0498
1 (800) 459 - 1887
1 (800) 614 - 2803
1 (866) 340 - 9281
1 (866) 338 - 1015
1 (877) 851 - 6437

FOR PENNSYLVANIANS:

Why no PA congressional sponsors of H Res. 333 (Cheney impeachment)? Write a brief e-mail.

Congresspeople in PA, none of whom are co-sponsors! (name, party-District, phone, FAX, web-contact page)

Representative Robert A. Brady (D - 01) 202-225-4731, 202-225-0088
www.house.gov/formrobertbrady/issue.htm

Representative Chaka Fattah (D - 02) 202-225-4001, 202-225-5392
www.house.gov/writerep /

Representative Phil English (R - 03) 202-225-5406, 202-225-3103
www.house.gov/english/zipauth.shtml

Representative Jason Altmire (D - 04) 202-225-2565, 202-226-2274
www.altmire.house.gov/IMA/issue_subscribe.htm

Representative John E. Peterson (R - 05) 202-225-5121, 202-225-5796
www.house.gov/johnpeterson/ima/contact.htm

Representative Jim Gerlach (R - 06) 202-225-4315, 202-225-8440
www.house.gov/writerep/

Representative Joe Sestak (D - 07) 202-225-2011, 202-226-0280
www.sestak.house.gov/IMA/issue_subscribe.htm

Representative Patrick Murphy (D - 08) 202-225-4276, 202-225-9511
www.patrickmurphy.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=55&Itemid=86

Representative Bill Shuster (R - 09) 202-225-2431, 202-225-2486
www.house.gov/shuster/zipauth.htm

Representative Christopher Carney (D - 10) 202-225-3731, 202-225-9594
www.carney.house.gov/contact.shtml

Representative Paul E. Kanjorski (D - 11) 202-225-6511, 202-225-0764
www.kanjorski.house.gov/?option=com_content&task=view&id=2&Itemid=

Representative John P. Murtha (D - 12) 202-225-2065,
202-225-5709 www.house.gov/murtha/write.shtml

Representative Allyson Schwartz (D - 13) 202-225-6111,
202-226-0611 http://www.schwartz.house.gov/issue_subscribe.shtm%20l

Representative Michael F. Doyle (D - 14) 202-225-2135, 202-225-3084
www.house.gov/doyle/email_mike.shtml

Representative Charles W. Dent (R - 15) 202-225-6411,
202-226-0778 www.dent.house.gov/contact.aspx

Representative Joseph R. Pitts (R - 16) 202-225-2411,
202-225-2013 www.house.gov/pitts/service/correspond.htm

Representative Tim Holden (D - 17) 202-225-5546,
202-226-0996 http://www.holden.house.gov/feedback.cfm?campaign=Holden&type=Let

Representative Tim Murphy (R - 18) 202-225-2301,
202-225-1844 www.house.gov/writerep /

Representative Todd R. Platts (R - 19) 202-225-5836, 202-226-1000
www.house.gov/platts/email.shtml

------------------
The sponsors, to date, are:

Yvette Clark New York/11 06/06/2007
William Lacy Clay, Jr. Missouri/1 05/01/2007
Keith Ellison Minnesota/5 06/28/2007 member of House Judiciary
Committee and the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and
Civil Liberties
Sam Farr California/17 07/12/2007
Bob Filner California/51 07/12/2007
Hank Johnson Georgia/4 06/28/2007 member of House Judiciary Committee
Dennis Kucinich Ohio/10 04/24/2007 author of resolution
Barbara Lee California/9 06/07/2007
Jim McDermott Washington/7 07/10/2007
James Moran Virginia/8 07/10/2007
Jan Schakowsky Illinois/9 05/01/2007
Maxine Waters California/35 06/12/2007 member of House Judiciary Committee
Lynn Woolsey California/6 06/07/2007
Albert Wynn Maryland/4 05/10/2007

Jason Altmire in Time Magazine

Time Magazine's got a short piece on Congressman Altmire. It begins with a conundrum for the Congressman:

"Can't we please stop the war?" Eugene Gabriel implored Congressman Jason Altmire, shouting over a singer belting out Beyoncé's Listen at the annual New Castle fireworks festival in western Pennsylvania. "That's what I wrote on my donation envelopes to you, both times, $200 a pop."

The freshman Democrat leaned into Gabriel's ear to make sure his response was heard: "We tried, but [President George W.] Bush vetoed it." The Democratic strategy, Altmire explained, was to keep the pressure up by continuing to schedule votes on Iraq and hope "that more Republicans will go to the White House and say, 'We can't do this anymore.'" The reply didn't quite mollify Gabriel, 49, a financial adviser who calls himself pro-life, pro-gun but antiwar. His son Michael, 22, is in the National Guard in neighboring Ohio; half of his division is expected to be deployed to Iraq in 2008.

Two hundred feet and 20 minutes later, having weaved his way farther into the crowd, Altmire faced another question about "the mess in Iraq," this time from William Proch, 71, a retired steelworker. But when Altmire again mentioned Bush's veto, Proch grew angry, accusing Altmire of being "in lockstep with [Speaker of the House Nancy] Pelosi, putting our troops in danger." The lifelong Republican voted for Altmire in 2006 after GOP ethics scandals left him wanting a fresh face. But because he also wants more troops in Iraq, not fewer, Proch is feeling buyer's remorse.

By the end of the piece he is by one constituent accused of being a rubberstamp for Bush and by another a rubberstamp for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The writer, Jay Newton-Small, points out the demographics of the district:

Altmire's district stretches west from the Pittsburgh suburbs to the Ohio border. In 2006 he wrested the congressional seat from three-term incumbent Melissa Hart with just 52% of the vote. The district should vote solidly Republican; on the same ballot, former Steelers football star Lynn Swann, the Republican challenger to Governor Ed Rendell, won by more than 20 percentage points. But the time was right for Altmire, a pro-gun fiscal conservative whose sandy hair, hazel eyes and freckles make him look far younger than his 39 years.

The narrow win--by just 9,798 votes--has made Altmire a top target of Republicans. Swann briefly flirted with the idea of challenging Altmire but announced last week he would not, opening the door for a rematch with Hart, who told local papers this month she plans to run again.

Though I'm not sure I'd agree with the assertion that the district "should vote solidly Republican." Last week I heard Bill Green (WPXI Political Analyst extraordinaire) say on NightTalk that the district was more Democratic than Republican (he pointed out that it was Ron Klink's old seat).

Coincidentally, Green did say that he thought that the seat would remain Altmire's after the 2008 election. He also said he didn't think it was a good idea for Melissa Hart to get into the race.

Bill Green said that.

July 22, 2007

Jack Kelly Spins Again

When you read his column today, pay careful attention to what he's saying and what he's not saying and what his general assumptions are. Let's begin:

It is reasonable (though it no longer may be accurate) to describe the security situation in Iraq as "bad," or "grim," or "dire." But it isn't getting worse. Security has improved so much since January that after a visit to Iraq last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said a "sea change" has taken place.

Let's take a look at that "sea change" reference. Here it is at the Washington Post:

Upbeat on what could be his final visit to Iraq before retiring, the top U.S. general said Tuesday that parts of Iraq are undergoing a "sea change" in improved security.[emphasis added]
Here it is at Time.com:

In his most optimistic remarks since the U.S. troop buildup began, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that Iraq has undergone a "sea change" in security in recent months, and that this will influence his recommendation to President Bush on how long to continue the current strategy.

After conferring with Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin and other commanders in this provincial capital west of Baghdad, Pace told reporters he has gathered a positive picture of the security environment not only here but also in Baghdad, where he began his Iraq visit on Monday.

He was asked whether this would inform his thinking about whether to continue the current strategy, with extra U.S. troops battling to security Baghdad and Anbar province. "It will because what I'm hearing now is a sea change that is taking place in many places here," he replied. "It's no longer a matter of pushing al-Qaida out of Ramadi, for example, but rather — now that they have been pushed out — helping the local police and the local army have a chance to get their feet on the ground and set up their systems."

So it's "many places here" in Iraq undergoing the sea change - not the whole country.

Gen. Pace was speaking in Ramadi where Time says he gathered a positive picture of what's going on "here and in Baghdad" - did you catch that? J-Kel never qualifies things that way. To him, the sea change is in Iraq.

But this "sea change" is really not news. Take a look at this from the Washington Post from last month:
Three months into the new U.S. military strategy that has sent tens of thousands of additional troops into Iraq, overall levels of violence in the country have not decreased, as attacks have shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar, where American forces are concentrated, only to rise in most other provinces, according to a Pentagon report released yesterday. [emphasis added]
Ramadi, where General Pace spoke, is the capital of Al Anbar province. So as of early last month, the violence in the whole country has not decreased, but shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar (where General Pace was speaking) out to the other provinces.

By leaving that out, Commando Kelly leaves us with a false impression. That's what's known as a lie of omission.

Kelly does write this:
Americans are being misinformed because many journalists and politicians are less interested in the facts on the ground than in putting their spin on those facts.
I just don't know if Kelly understands his unintentional irony.

July 20, 2007

The View From Below


"President Bush temporarily will transfer power to Vice President Dick Cheney while Bush has a colonoscopy Saturday."
One would certainly assume by now that Bush has had his head up there long enough to know every nook, cranny and crevice in loving detail.

Also, one could be forgiven for wondering how Cheney could possibly take control for the Prez when he's not even a member of the Executive Branch . . .

(h/t to Shakesville.)

Republican Filibusters

The headline to this McClatchy article reads:
Senate tied in knots by filibusters
Here's how it begins:

This year Senate Republicans are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before, a pattern that's rooted in — and could increase — the pettiness and dysfunction in Congress.

The trend has been evolving for 30 years. The reasons behind it are too complex to pin on one party. But it has been especially pronounced since the Democrats' razor-thin win in last year's election, giving them effectively a 51-49 Senate majority, and the Republicans' exile to the minority.

Before someone charges in, reminding everyone of the many "Democrat filibusters" when the Republicans ran the Senate, here's something to gnaw on:
Nearly 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year have been cloture votes. If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes — 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002, according to the Senate Historical Office. [emphasis added]
Triple. Not match. Not double. But triple.

Republican filibuster.

Get used to it.

FEMA - Still Doing a Heckova Job!

From today's Washington Post:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency since early 2006 has suppressed warnings from its own field workers about health problems experienced by hurricane victims living in government-provided trailers with levels of a toxic chemical 75 times the recommended maximum for U.S. workers, congressional lawmakers said yesterday.

A trail of e-mails obtained by investigators shows that the agency's lawyers rejected a proposal for systematic testing of the levels of potentially cancer-causing formaldehyde gas in the trailers, out of concern that the agency would be legally liable for any hazards or health problems. As many as 120,000 families displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita lived in the suspect trailers, and hundreds have complained of ill effects.

Good god! Hasn't this administration screwed over the victims of Hurricane Katrina enough? I guess drowning the city of New Orleans was only a start. Let's expose 'em to formaldehyde!
Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) decried what he called FEMA's indifference to storm victims and said the situation was "sickening." He said the documents "expose an official policy of premeditated ignorance" and added that "senior officials in Washington didn't want to know what they already knew, because they didn't want the legal and moral responsibility to do what they knew had to be done."
Hey, weren't these folks calling themselves "Compassionate Conservatives" a few years ago?

What's compassionate (or, to be fair, conservative) about forced indifference to formaldehyde exposure to people who lost everything?

Yep, our dubya's doing a heckova job. Heckova job.

Executive Privilege Trumps All

Via TalkingPointsMemo, I found this at the Washington Post:

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

And:
"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," said a senior official, who said his remarks reflect a consensus within the administration. "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen." [emphasis added]
Legal criticism:

Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration's stance "astonishing."

"That's a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers," Rozell said. "What this statement is saying is the president's claim of executive privilege trumps all."

Legal praise:
David B. Rifkin, who worked in the Justice Department and White House counsel's office under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, praised the position and said it is consistent with the idea of a "unitary executive." In practical terms, he said, "U.S. attorneys are emanations of a president's will." And in constitutional terms, he said, "the president has decided, by virtue of invoking executive privilege, that is the correct policy for the entire executive branch."
The Imperial Presidency. So no matter if it's right or wrong, if dubya sez so, it's "the correct policy" for the US Attorneys. As another legal critic said in the piece, because the White House controls the enforcement process, it's just going to thumb its nose at Congress. All legal precedents aside. They don't matter because dubya sez so.

Remember a few years ago when the Republicans in Congress had their collective panties in a twist because "no one is above the law"?

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) said the administration is "hastening a constitutional crisis," and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said the position "makes a mockery of the ideal that no one is above the law."

Waxman added: "I suppose the next step would be just disbanding the Justice Department."

Is there any more evidence needed for how toxic this administration has become? Whether its lying the nation into war, or stonewalling Congressional oversight, or simplly disrespecting the Constitution, this administration has done so much damage it's difficult to imagine how long it will take to fix.

IMPEACH

Pgh City Council Vs. Pgh City Cats


Wednesday saw the Pittsburgh City Council take it's first vote on licensing cats (final vote Tuesday). While the Burghosphere is jumping with Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle's remarks on the evolution of feline behavior ("In 2007, cats are more aggressive than they used to be"), she was far from the only Councilor to, um, "distinguish" herself during the debate on the bill.

Councilman Jim Motznik painted himself as being primarily concerned with the safety and welfare of pet cats -- no mention as he had in the past of his own, personal concerns for the safety and welfare of his pet fish in his backyard koi pond. More amusing was his likening himself to former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani. At least he kept the comparison to "quality of life" issues and wasn't claiming to be "America's Councilman."

But, what I found to be most disturbing about Council's conversation wasn't Carlisle's evolutionary thesis or Motznik's Rudy pretensions, it was Councilman Len Bodack's arguments.

Bodack made it clear that he favored the bill and he indeed voted for it. However, he actively encouraged the segment of the cat owning population who keeps their cats indoors to IGNORE THE LAW FOR WHICH HE WAS VOTING.

Yep, he basically said that if you had indoor cats no one would be the wiser if you just didn't bother to license them.

What the hell kind of legislator votes for a law that he's telling people to break?

Oh yeah, one who the voters of his district wisely decided not to invite back.

What a jerk.

[sigh]

Major props to Councilwoman Darlene Harris for all the research that she did on the issue and for taking the sensible and humane position that the real problem is feral cats and the best solution is to have the City reinstate its program to trap, spay and return the cats which was dropped by Act 47.

If you read the MSM/blogs you may know that the vote this week was four in favor and four against with one abstention by Jeff Koch.

Koch will be voting on the bill next week. If, like me, you believe that cat licensing is not the way to go, please contact Koch at:
jeffrey.koch@city.pittsburgh.pa.us
Telephone: 412-255-2130
Fax: 412-255-8950

It's especially important to contact him if you live in Council District Three.

P.S. I hear Koch is a cat owner.

.

Pittsburgh's 2nd Annual Dyke March


WHAT: Pittsburgh Dyke March
WHEN: Saturday, July 21, 2007, 5PM
WHERE: CMU Lawn

From Sue talking about last years's march:
Last year's event was awesome with dozens of dyke-identified queer women marching proudly through the streets of Oakland. It is hard to describe so let's take a quick look back at what we were saying last year ...
These women have done a good job creating a dyke-affirming event. The next challenge is to reach out beyond their circles of genderqueer women to all those dykes who didn't attend, didn't hear about it and are pretty much mainstream. Their voices should be part of the dialogue because they too are being disregarded by those in power. There are lots and lots of suburban dykes in Pittsburgh complete with minivans, car seats and years of misogeny on their backs.

July 19, 2007

Mayor Luke's Security

This caught my eye this morning. It's from today's Rich Lord of the P-G.
In the first six months of this year, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's bodyguards made more money than their boss did. That's one result of the ramped-up security around the city's top executive, who is accompanied by an officer at public, political and personal affairs.
So he's got round-the-clock police protection when he's out in public.
"There are times when if I do something personal at somebody's home, I'll go with my wife and myself," he said. But if he's out politicking, or grabbing dinner and drinks, he's accompanied.
Wait. Does this mean he had an officer with him when he flew to NYC and couldn't remember where he ate or slept?

Well, does the officer know?

Local Fallout From the US Attorney Firings

From Pamela Reed Ward in today's P-G.

You remember the US Attorney Firing scandal doncha? Ward writes:
The House and Senate judiciary committees are investigating the firings of nine federal prosecutors late last year. Some allege that the moves were politically motivated, and that prosecutors were forced out because of a reluctance to pursue Democratic officials or for moving forward in investigating Republicans.
And there's a Pittsburgh connection to all this: US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan's prosecution of Dr. Cyril Wecht. In a letter to AG Gonzales, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers wrote:
The prosecution of Dr. Cyril Wecht in the Western District of Pennsylvania by U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan has also engendered controversy. It has been alleged that the case of Dr. Wecht, a prominent 75-year old Democrat who was the coroner in Allegheny County, is indicative of other prosecutions in the Western District - since 2001, the U.S. Attorney has never indicted a Republican official, and has only prosecuted officeholders who are democrat.21 Dr. Wecht, a world renowned forensic pathologist and television commentator, was charged with misusing his office and personally enriching himself by, among other thngs, striking a deal with a local university to trade unclaimed cadavers for university lab space.22 Claiming Dr. Wecht was a flight risk, Ms. Buchanan advised his defense lawyers, including former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, that her office intended to arrest Dr. Wecht and subject him to a "perp walk," even though Dr. Wecht and his lawyers repeatedly offered to self-surrender and voluntarily appear in court to be arraigned.23 Reportedly only after former Attorney General Thornburgh spoke with Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty did Ms. Buchanan agree not to arrest Dr. Wecht and subject him to a "perp walk." In court filings, Dr. Wecht alleges that Ms. Buchanan's office inflamed the press by making inappropriate statement.24 The U.S. Attorney's office urged the courts to set the trial in October, 2006, a month before the congressional elections; the case was postponed only after the federal appeals court agreed to hear motions by Dr. Wecht's attorneys. Yet U.S. Attorney Buchanan has not brought charges against at least two Republican officials who, like Dr. Wecht, are alleged to have misused their office staff.25
I included the footnote numbers (they're those teeny numbers after some of the sentences). You'll see why in about 10 seconds. Ward writes:
Though her testimony has not been made public, it is referred to in a footnote of the letter sent to Mr. Gonzales. In it, Ms. Buchanan told investigators that she has only prosecuted Democratic officeholders.
That's footnote 21:
Mary Beth Buchanan, Interview with House Committee on the Judiciary, at 145-6.

The footnote 25 in that section of Conyers' letter points to this Op-Ed in the P-G by Thomas J. Farrell. This is what Farrell wrote back in March:

Democrats do occupy most public offices in Allegheny County, but are the Republican officials in the 24 other counties of the Western Pennsylvania District all squeaky clean? Why apparently no investigation into Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's use of government office staff to support his campaign -- which is not unlike what happened in the Allegheny County sheriff's office? Ms. Buchanan also left to local authorities the prosecution of Republican state Rep. Jeff Habay after similar accusations arose.

Attorney Farrell also points out ex-Senator Santorum's by now famous residency problems. Apparently no investigation there, either.

I can understand her only prosecuting only Democratic officeholders in Pittsburgh (show me the Repulicans holding office in this city and I'll change my mind) but she's prosecuted no Republicans in Western PA at all since 2001?

Something very fishy there.

She's certainly a loyal Bushie, isn't she?

July 18, 2007

Generation Chickenhawk: A Must See!

Check out this clip at Huffingtonpost.com.

Here's how the film-maker, Max Blumenthal, describes it:

On July 13, 2007, I visited Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, where the bodies of American soldiers killed in Iraq were freshly interred. Afterwards, I headed across the street to the Sheraton National Hotel, owned by right-wing Korean cult leader Sun Myung-Moon, to meet some of the war's most fervent supporters at the College Republican National Convention.

In conversations with at least twenty College Republicans about the war in Iraq, I listened as they lip-synched discredited cant about "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." Many of the young GOP cadres I met described the so-called "war on terror" as nothing less than the cause of their time.

Yet when I asked these College Repulicans why they were not participating in this historical cause, they immediately went into contortions. Asthma. Bad knees from playing catcher in high school. "Medical reasons." "It's not for me." These were some of the excuses College Republicans offered for why they could not fight them "over there." Like the current Republican leaders who skipped out on Vietnam, the GOP's next generation would rather cheerlead from the sidelines for the war in Iraq while other, less privileged young men and women fight and die.

Along with videographer Thomas Shomaker, I captured a vivid portrait of the hypocritical mentality of the next generation of Republican leaders. See for yourself.

It's amazing how many opt to finish their degrees or otherwise just sit out dubya's war.

As a perc, make sure you see the t-shirted Republican kid who, while he was tempted, prayed to god in order to make sure that he's not gay. Lo and behold, he isn't!. Hallelujah!

Happens about 4 and a half minutes in.

Blumenthal ends the piece by saying that the day he was there talking with the gungho college kids who can't bring themselves to enlist, 3 more American servicemen died in Iraq

DRAFT COLLEGE REPUBLICANS

UPDATE: Here's the clip from Youtube.

DeSantis Responds

Yesterday, Mark DeSantis issued a press release responding to Mayor Luke's press release of the day before.

“Transparency and honesty in any campaign is not a ‘tactic’, it is an obligation. I would hope that Mr. Ravenstahl would feel the same way,” said DeSantis.

Act 47/Budget

“I am very aware of the meaning and requirements of Act 47. My pledge is designed to ensure that each candidate has a clear grasp of this enormous challenge,” said DeSantis.

A few questions for Mr. Ravenstahl in that regard: 1) Has he implemented the Act 47 recommendations?; 2) Has he met the cost reduction target?; and 3) Does his budget have realistic assumptions?

DeSantis further elaborated that making a realistic budget plan is about effective city leadership. “Leadership is not about meeting some minimum legal requirement. It is about far exceeding the minimum requirements,” said DeSantis. Mr.DeSantis believes that public officials and those seeking public offices should try to work out the best plan possible.

It is true that Mr.DeSantis has not worked with council on a budgetplan. However, Mr. DeSantis is not currently a public official and therefore is not charged with the task of preparing a budget. However, Mr. DeSantis has expressed his willingness to develop a plan for this city.

Gift/Gratuity

This pledge is taken from Section 197.07 of the city charter.

Debates

Mr. Ravenstahl sent a letter asking for two debates. Mr. DeSantis responded by asking for eight. There is precedent for eight or more debates as evidenced by the 2005 mayoral race. Bob O’Connor squared off against his democratic challengers on more than eight ocassions. In 2003, Jim Roddey and Dan Onorato took part in more than twenty debates.

In addition, both campaign have already agreed to and scheduled a mayoral forum set for September 27, 2007. Mr. DeSantis’ debate coordinator has also been actively working with media organizations to schedule debates.

Mr. DeSantis is available for further comment.

As The Burgher wrote, it's good to see a back and forth this hearty this early on. If anything, it shows the need for more debates.

July 17, 2007

Senator Edwards, This Evening

Former Senator and current Presidential candidate John Edwards was in Pittsburgh this evening. He was giving a speech at The Hill House as part of his Road to One America Tour making its way across the country.

When I arrived a little after 5, there were a few people there, more than a smattering but less than a crowd. By the time Edwards began to speak about an hour later, the place was sweaty full. The early reporting from the AP says 250 people were there.

Initially they shuttled us "press" people ("Are you with the press?" they asked. "Yes, I'm a blogger." I answered.) to a room in the next building over. On the way I saw the politically ever-present Jon Delano. I guess he was there to cover the evenings event's too.

We were moved en masse into the next building, to a daycare room. The tables unbelievably tiny and the bathroom had instructions posted on the wall (One said "Remove Pants" - remember, we're talking real little kids here). Fuzzy children's art was hung from the ceiling and the alphabet was on full display on the far wall. The press area was roped off.

Then the kids arrived. At least two dozen and none could've been more than 4 or 5 years old. The room filled quickly - filled with the bustle of children and the rustle of the quickly sweating camera crews. Fox News was there, as was Reuters. The locals (TAE, KQV, P-G and so on) were all represented. C-Span was even there. We heard the Senator was finishing an interview for Hardball in the next room.

In short order, the kids were read a story ("If You Give a Pig a Pancake") and then another ("Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs"). Songs about little teapots short and stout were sung. Songs about little stars twinkling above in the sky so high and the itsy-bitsy spider crawling up the water spout. Cute doesn't begin to describe it all.

O'Toole of the P-G asked about the room. He was told that the room was for the 2 yr olds. But the kids in the room at that point were any where between toddlers and 5 yrs old. On a regular day, most of the kids would've been home by that time of day.

Then The Senator arrived. He was greeted by the children singing a rousing rendition of "You're a Grand Old Flag" (please no Ann Coulter jokes - there's little kids in the room.).

There were handshakes all around, he spoke to some of the mothers present and got a "Get Well" card for his wife, Elizabeth. Cameras whirring incessantly, capturing every nanosecond.

And then the photo op was over.

The Main Event

As quickly as everything was set up, it was broken down and we were on our way to the main hall at Hill House. For the press, it was up in the balcony. Bram was there, as was Mark Rauterkus. After some introductory speeches by three people enormously helped by the programs at The Hill House, Edwards came to the podium. He began by saying he'd been on that stage before, at this Wake-up Walmart tour. The OPJ blogged on that evening, here.

Senator Edwards spoke very eloquently about poverty, the damage that it does and some steps to eradicate it. Such an important issue facing society, he called it the "great moral cause of our time."

He began by mentioning the other cities he's visited on the tour, beginning with New Orleans. In one of the few times the speech got obviously political, he called the national response to what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina a "national disgrace" and a "complete failure of presidential leadership."

He mentioned this speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King, where the Rev, though speaking about the war in Vietnam said:
A time comes when silence is betrayal.
For Edwards, the idea applies just as well to povery. It's wrong, he said, in a nation as wealthy as ours to have 15 million people living in deep intractable poverty. Where people can be working full time and still live in poverty.

In Cleveland, he said, he came across a middle class neighborhood being sucked dry by predatory lenders. In a one block radius, there were 38 homes in foreclosure. Lost to predatory lending practices.

The racial and economic segregation in the society are not good for our democracy, he said. In the nation's schools, there are two systems; one for the wealthy and the other for everyone else. As a solution, he's proposing a few ideas; bonuses to wealthier schools who take in poorer students, the establishment of magnet schools in the inner cities, "2nd chance High Schools for people who dropped out of High School, raising teacher salary and bonuses for teachers who opt to work in poorer neighborhoods.

He began to wrap things up with a few tough rhetorical questions about what we really believe as a society. Do we really believe in equality? In opportunity? That all children deserve the same chance? The answers should all be yes. Then he turned to the crowd:
The power is with you.
The Civil Rights Movement didn't start in the Oval Office, he said. It started in places like The Hill House. Same thing with the protests against the war in Vietnam. It was a movement.

And now we need, he said, a movement to end poverty.

The After Speech Press

After the speech, Senator Edwards took a few questions from some local reporters (Delano went first - OF COURSE). He answered questions that fleshed out some of the details of his speech (refunding the currently defunded programs for mental health care and so on).

There was a mini-interview with C-Span, ranging from Edwards third place in the current polls to Ann Coulter. Of Coulter, Edwards said, there's nothing wrong with disagreement, but hate mongering should not be included in the national discussion. It's demeaning to the process.

I gotta admit, I was impressed. The cynic in me, however, pointed out to the rest of me that although very little of the evening's words were political in nature (there was no "Edwards for President" material to be found anywhere, for instance. No banners, no buttons, nothing.), it still felt like a political speech, but with all the obvious political stuff carefully and surgically removed - a parallel speech of sorts with all the rhetorical arrows that would have pointed to "Vote for Me" remaining in the quiver.

Not that it wasn't important for The Senator to say what he said, but he is running for President. And perhaps this was a smart way to do it in the short run, campaigning without any messy polticial cliches attached.

Jim Quinn Gets Fact-Checked (July 17 Edition)

An astute reader clued me in to this column by J.D. Prose.

The whole thing started out when Allys Boyer, an 84-year old constituent of Congressman Jason Altmire's and Gold Star Mother, wanted to go visit the White House in late June. Her son, Cpl Larry Boyer, was killed in Vietnam in May, 1969. Coincidentally, President George W. Bush was just completing his first year in the comparatively cushy (certainly compared to Vietnam) Texas Air National Guard in May, 1969.

Fortunate son.

Turns out there's a policy in place at the White House for Gold Star Families to be pushed to the head of the line when looking to get a White House tour.

Sounds like good news for Allys, doesn't it?

Not so fast. The policy is for only for those families who lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan. And remember, Allys Boyer lost a son in Vietnam when dubya was guarding the air over Texas.

Prose wrote about it here (sub. req - sorry), but the full text can be found here (if you can wade through the freerepublic garbage that surrounds it).

That's when Quinn, the well-armed terrorist, chimed in. Here's how Prose wrote it this weekend:

Now, we don't know what Quinn said and we weren't bothered enough to find out, but from the e-mails and comments, we gathered that we're lazy, stupid, unethical, anti-military and a shill for U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-4, McCandless Township.

Whew! At least nobody called us ugly.

We were mainly accused of being duped by Altmire and his spokeswoman, Christina Stacey, who informed us of the Boyer family's request for a White House tour and the subsequent rejection.

Quinn's apparent claim was that Altmire knew Vietnam mothers weren't eligible for preferential treatment, but he offered up Mrs. Boyer as a pawn to make President Goofy, uh, Bush look bad.

"You are a sucker, J.D.," wrote Luke Snatchko of Burgettstown on the Web site. "They submitted their request knowing it would get turned down."

"Dem. leaders mis-represent soldiers' status to the White House knowing that it will be discovered and denied later. They are using the press to develop non-stories," wrote Jerry Linger of Cincinnati.

Riiiiiight. See? It was A VAST LEFT-WING CONSPIRACY!!

With Bush enjoying such immense popularity (29 percent) and riding a wave of success in Iraq (cough, cough), House Democrats decided to knock him down a peg by concocting lies about the White House ignoring mothers whose sons died fighting in Vietnam. Brilliant!

Then the nutcase case really got moving. There were allegations by Quinn that the Boyers were big contributors to the Democratic Party. Here's where the fact-checking happened. Prose continued:

Center Township reader Robin Cox, who's been no fan of ours, posted a critical comment, but then showed the initiative we lack and checked out Quinn's argument.

Here's what Cox later wrote: "Mr. Quinn used an anonymous source, someone he calls 'Son of Deepthroat.' I'm always skeptical of anonymous sources ... Mr. Quinn claimed a Lexis/Nexis search uncovered contributions from the Boyers to Howard Dean and George Soros-related 527s. I checked FEC data on the Center for Responsive Politics website for the 2000 through 2008 campaign cycles and found no contributions to anyone under any of the Boyer names mentioned in the Prose column ... Mr. Quinn alleged there were at least four other cases similar to that of the Boyers. A Google search found no hits to support that allegation."

Don't these guys think that someone might actually check their work?

But the bigger issue here is what Quinn was trying to do. In order to deflect from the issue (that there are two tiers of support in dubya's White House for Gold Star Families, when there should only be one), he raises non-issues (who knew which rules and when) and manufactures "facts" (the Boyers non-existent campaign donations).

Jim Quinn, Pittsburgh's own crazy-ass wingnut.

July 16, 2007

DeSantis/Ravenstahl Update

So, what happened today in the mayoral race?

First, at a news conference downtown, Mark DeSantis challenged Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to at least 8 debates. He also signed the following campaign pledges:
    1. The candidates will not accept gratuities or gifts from parties or their representatives that have business currently before the City of Pittsburgh or that regularly have business with the City of Pittsburgh; (Lawful campaign donations are excluded.)
    2. The candidates will not misrepresent their past business or political experience and will not misrepresent the past business or political experience of their opponent;
    3. The candidates put forth a plan to prevent the City of Pittsburgh from entering bankruptcy. The plan will be submitted by both candidates on or before October 1, 2007;
    4. The candidates will run a campaign that treats City of Pittsburgh voters with respect; and
    5. The candidates will agree to debate the relevant issues facing the city on at least eight (8) occasions between August 1, 2007 and election day.
He also issued the following press release:

Mr. DeSantis believes that at least eight debates are necessary to provide Pittsburgh voters with an informed decision in this upcoming election. “A thoughtful discussion on the issues and challenges facing this city is the only method to provide voters with a clear choice in democratic leadership,” said DeSantis.

In a June 20, 2007 letter, Mr. Ravenstahl requested two debates with the caveat that his current position as the appointed mayor may prevent him from engaging in these debates. “ It is my first and foremost responsibility and its scheduling requirements are enormous”. (See Ravenstahl Letter dated June 20, 2007). Mr. DeSantis believes that engaging in thoughtful debate on the issues facing city residents is the responsibility of both candidates. “Two debates are simply not enough. City residents need to have as many opportunities as possible to accurately assess the qualities and abilities of each candidate”, said DeSantis.

Mr. DeSantis expects Mr. Ravenstahl to provide an answer to this challenge by July 23, 2007. The DeSantis campaign looks forward to working to secure the debates as soon as possible.

The Ravenstahl campaign issued the following response:
It is our hope and desire that this campaign can be about the issues, rather than just election year campaign tactics. The Mayor is very disheartened by what we’ve seen from our opponent thus far.

If our opponent does not know, the City of Pittsburgh is required under Act 47 and Act 11, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, to have a five year budget and recovery plan. We have that already. The major difference between our opponent and Mayor Ravenstahl is that the Mayor has already been a part of making that plan and bringing it into existence. Mayor Ravenstahl is the first Mayor in years to implement a structurally balanced budget. Mayor Ravenstahl has cooperated with the ICA, Act 47 and Pittsburgh City Council to put forth a plan to balance the City’s budget. Our opponent has not.

With regard to our opponent attempting to offer a policy that differs from the existing law relative to the City Ethics Code, Mayor Ravenstahl complies fully with the existing law and will continue to do so. No amount of election year antics will change that.

Mayor Ravenstahl has served for over ten months now. He has demonstrated that he always treats the voters and residents of the City with the highest degree of respect. In fact, he has stood election twice before and has always done so. Our opponent has not.

Our opponent exclaimed in his announcement that no candidates should misrepresent his own or his opponent’s past business or political experience. On this we can agree.

Finally, our opponent asks now, in the form of his pledges, to call on the candidates to agree to debate. Our opponent should be reminded that on June 20th, Mayor Ravenstahl was the first candidate to call for and offer specific debates. To date, our opponent has not responded to our offers. Now our opponent is using campaign tactics to rewrite history. Mayor Ravenstahl looks forward to debating his opponent vigorously.
A few thoughts. They really gotta get a better writer over there at Ravenstahl HQ. Take a look at the fifth paragraph - the one that starts "Mayor Ravenstahl has served for over ten months..."

If we start from the position that any given sentence is a more or less discrete idea, then there's some messy overlap of sentences there. The first sentence lays out the case that the mayor treats voters with respect. Fine, but then there's this sentence:
In fact, he has stood election twice before and has always done so.
Huh? Always done what? Stood election twice? That makes absolutely no sense. I am guessing that that phrase belongs with the previous sentence. But with that word "always" in there ("...he always treats the voters...") simply cutting and pasting it over would be redundant.

And then what hasn't DeSantis done? Stood election twice? Or treated the voters with the highest respect? If it's the first one, so what? All the original coverage about DeSantis pointed out that he's never run for elected office. What does that have to do with treating the voters with respect? If it's the second, then where's the evidence from the campaign for this charge?

See what I mean? It's bad writing that does not serve the Mayor's campaign well at all.

And what's with the use of the royal we? As Mark Twain once (reportedly) said:
Only kings, editors, and people with tapeworm have the right to use the editorial "we."
Safe to say that good old Sam Clemens is quite right about that.