We are the 99%

August 31, 2007

Green Zone Slime

Just stumbled across this at talkingpointsmemo. The Washington Post reports:

The sheets of paper seemed to be everywhere the lawmakers went in the Green Zone, distributed to Iraqi officials, U.S. officials and uniformed military of no particular rank. So when Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) asked a soldier last weekend just what he was holding, the congressman was taken aback to find out.

In the soldier's hand was a thumbnail biography, distributed before each of the congressmen's meetings in Baghdad, which let meeting participants such as that soldier know where each of the lawmakers stands on the war. "Moran on Iraq policy," read one section, going on to cite some the congressman's most incendiary statements, such as, "This has been the worst foreign policy fiasco in American history."

The Post also describes a bio of Rep Ellen Taucher (D-Calif). There's more:

Brief, choreographed and carefully controlled, the codels (short for congressional delegations) often have showed only what the Pentagon and the Bush administration have wanted the lawmakers to see. At one point, as Moran, Tauscher and Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) were heading to lunch in the fortified Green Zone, an American urgently tried to get their attention, apparently to voice concerns about the war effort, the participants said. Security whisked the man away before he could make his point.

Tauscher called it "the Green Zone fog."

"Spin City," Moran grumbled. "The Iraqis and the Americans were all singing from the same song sheet, and it was deliberately manipulated."

How surprising. More surprising is that the bios got some things wrong. Thinkprogress notes that the quotations used were cherry picked - the "most incendiary" were used. The Post:

For one, the quotations appeared to be selected to divide the visitors into those who are with the war effort and those who are against. For another, they were not exactly accurate. Under "latest Iraq vote," Tauscher's bio noted that she had voted in favor of legislation requiring the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within 120 days of the bill's enactment.

She did vote that way -- in May. On Aug. 2, Tauscher voted in favor of her own bill, which mandates that troops be granted a leave from combat at least as long as their last combat deployment before being shipped back to Iraq. That vote might have been a little too popular with the soldiers she was meeting, Tauscher said.

"Not exactly accurate" is another way of saying "wrong."

I'll give Josh Marshall the final word:
It's all par for the course for this administration, how they've politicized every branch of the government and every agency, eroding democratic institutions in American while they pretended to build them in Iraq. In fact, from the start the White House tried to stock the Green Zone and the US occupation authority with GOP operatives. But I thought that had changed a little. This latest incident, though, should trigger a number of forced retirements and resignations.

More Republican Hypocrisy

This time the Senator Craig's part if the story is only periheral.

What about the other recent corruptions in God's Own Party?

The crew at CREW wants to know:

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, expressed surprise that Sen. Larry Craig has been forced to relinquish his committee assignments in light of this week's revelations that he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in connection with an attempted sexual encounter with an undercover officer in a Minneapolis airport restroom.

"Senator Ted Stevens maintains his position on the Appropriations Committee despite being the subject of a major criminal investigation, including an FBI raid on his Alaska home and Senator David Vitter maintains his assignments despite admitting to the crime of soliciting a prostitute."

According to Rawstory, here's the reason:
The key distinction between Craig's case and those of Stevens and Vitter, in the eyes of Republican leaders, is that Craig has been charged with and pleaded guilty to a crime, where the others have not, a leadership source tells RAW STORY.
I have to go with Melanie Sloan of CREW, however:
"A disorderly conduct plea requires a member to give up his committee assignment, but a full-fledged bribery investigation does not," observed Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "Apparently, in the view of the Republican conference there is almost nothing more serious than a member attempting to engage in gay sex."
I think she's trying to be sarcastic, but the charge actually works without any hint of it. The FBI can raid your home and put you under corruption investigation and you're safe, but get caught tapping your foot in an airport men's room and your party abandons you quicker than you can say "shock and awe."

Glenn Greenwald has more at salon.
It is hard to remember an incident that more powerfully reveals the true, deeply unprincipled face of the "Traditional Marriage" movement than the completely disparate treatment from the GOP leadership for David Vitter and Larry Craig. As the likes of Mitch McConnell and (the divorced and adulterous) John McCain oh-so-nobly demand Craig's resignation while continuing to embrace David Vitter, the last thing we ought to be hearing is how this demonstrates newfound moral rectitude from the Republican Party. Whatever is driving the party leaders as they keep David Vitter and push out Larry Craig -- and similarly condemn same-sex marriages while saying nothing about (and often engaging in) divorces and multiple marriages -- devotion to "traditional moral values" is not it.
Ah, ain't life grand?

Ethics Board Recommendations: Public or A Secret?

Big Hat tip to Bram on this one.

Ok, this is getting tiresome. Now I have an some idea of what parents must feel when they hear story after story about their lying, disrespectful child. The Trib's Jeremy Borem has the story:
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl refused to release a letter Thursday that contains changes the city Ethics Hearing Board has recommended to ethics rules.
Remember all this? The $9,000 golf outing paid for by UPMC and the Penguins? The Ethics Board "dialog" with the mayor? The appearance of impropriety? I guess there wasn't enough there for the ethics board to publicly spank master Luke, but there was enough there for the ethics board to decide that some clarification of the ethics code was needed. They said they'd send the recommendations to the Mayor's office.

Those are the recommendations he's keeping secret:
Kate DeSimone, an assistant city solicitor who works with the board, said the letter isn't subject to the state open records law because the board members consider the letter to be "personal between them and the mayor."
I'm happy to see the Trib giving Coucilman Peduto the last word:
"If they think that's a private matter, that's insane," said Councilman Bill Peduto, who often criticizes Ravenstahl's administration. "It was a letter from a public board, from a public meeting that was sent to a public official. What makes them think the public can't see it?"
Damn straight.

By the way, the Trib's filed a request for the letter via Pennsylvania's Right-to-know law.

UPDATE: DeSantis responds:

Mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis challenged Luke Ravenstahl to abide by Pennsylvania law and publish the Ethics Board recommendations. Ravenstahl has now made this bad situation even worse by defying Pennsylvania's Right to Know law and refusing to release to the public the recommendations of the Ethics Board. This was a decision the Ethics board was forced to make as a result of Ravensthal’s conduct.

“This represents everything that is wrong with City government. The idea that an ethics issue of a public official is viewed as a private matter is absurd and unacceptable. I call on Mayor Ravenstahl to release the Ethics Board’s findings immediately. The citizens of Pittsburgh deserve an open and transparent government not more of the same old style of politics. Transparency in government is a hallmark of my campaign. I assure the citizens of Pittsburgh that they will not have to compel me to release public documents.”

Absurd and unacceptable. That's what the man said.

August 30, 2007

John & Elizabeth Edwards in Pittsburgh on Labor Day

WHAT: A Labor Day rally with John and Elizabeth Edwards
WHEN: Monday, September 3 (Labor Day) at 9:00 AM
WHERE: Mario Lemieux Place -- Mellon Arena between Centre Ave. and Bedford Ave.

"John and Elizabeth Edwards are going to be in Pittsburgh on Labor Day — Monday, September 3 — for a rally with local supporters.

This campaign is about building one America and ending a system that is rigged against hardworking families. John is running for president to restore the promise of America—and to truly change things for all of us.

So please, come join John and Elizabeth on Labor Day to celebrate with all of us as we stand-up for hardworking families."

REMINDER: The Young Dems could use your help registering voters that day. Sign up here.

Hey! How's that war going?

Some recent headlines:

Report Finds Little Progress On Iraq Goals
GAO Draft at Odds With White House

By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 30, 2007; Page A01


Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration.

The strikingly negative GAO draft, which will be delivered to Congress in final form on Tuesday, comes as the White House prepares to deliver its own new benchmark report in the second week of September, along with congressional testimony from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. They are expected to describe significant security improvements and offer at least some promise for political reconciliation in Iraq.
More here

U.S. Weapons, Given to Iraqis, Move to Turkey
By DAVID S. CLOUD and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: August 30, 2007


WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 — Weapons that were originally given to Iraqi security forces by the American military have been recovered over the past year by the authorities in Turkey after being used in violent crimes in that country, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The discovery that serial numbers on pistols and other weapons recovered in Turkey matched those distributed to Iraqi police units has prompted growing concern by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that controls on weapons being provided to Iraqis are inadequate. It was also a factor in the decision to dispatch the department’s inspector general to Iraq next week to investigate the problem, the officials said.
More here

Pentagon won't make surge recommendation to Bush
By Nancy A. Youssef McClatchy Newspapers
Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2007

WASHINGTON — In a sign that top commanders are divided over what course to pursue in Iraq, the Pentagon said Wednesday that it won't make a single, unified recommendation to President Bush during next month's strategy assessment, but instead will allow top commanders to make individual presentations.

"Consensus is not the goal of the process," Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters. "If there are differences, the president will hear them."

Military analysts called the move unusual for an institution that ordinarily does not air its differences in public, especially while its troops are deployed in combat.
More here

Rep.: Iraq goal no longer should be democracy
By Kathy Barks Hoffman - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Aug 25, 2007 7:59:00 EDT


LANSING, Mich. — The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee said Friday the president needs to move away from trying to establish democracy in Iraq and concentrate instead on security and stability.

“Establishing a democracy in the time frame that we’ve wanted to do it, over the period of three to five years, was too big of a reach,” Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra said after the taping of public television’s “Off the Record” program.

[snip]

“The president has to be willing to say, ‘I’m going to take democracy off the table. We’re going to aim for safety and stability,’ ” he said.
More here

Report Offers Grim View of Iraqi Leaders
By MARK MAZZETTI
Published: August 24, 2007

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 — A stark assessment released Thursday by the nation’s intelligence agencies depicts a paralyzed Iraqi government unable to take advantage of the security gains achieved by the thousands of extra American troops dispatched to the country this year.

The assessment, known as a National Intelligence Estimate, casts strong doubts on the viability of the Bush administration strategy in Iraq. It gives a dim prognosis on the likelihood that Iraqi politicians can heal deep sectarian rifts before next spring, when American military commanders have said that a crunch on available troops will require reducing the United States’ presence in Iraq.
More here

Ammunition Shortage Squeezes Police
AP IMPACT: Ammunition Shortage Squeezes Police Nationwide; Officer Training Curtailed

By ESTES THOMPSON Associated Press Writer
Aug 17, 2007 (AP)

Troops training for and fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are firing more than 1 billion bullets a year, contributing to ammunition shortages hitting police departments nationwide and preventing some officers from training with the weapons they carry on patrol.

An Associated Press review of dozens of police and sheriff's departments found that many are struggling with delays of as long as a year for both handgun and rifle ammunition. And the shortages are resulting in prices as much as double what departments were paying just a year ago.
More here

Hands Across the Burghosphere

We seem to be stalled here in the high 40s -- better than the President and Congress -- but c'mon.

You don't have to give till it hurts. How about sparing $10 bucks for a really good cause? (Pittsburgh Action Against Rape)

Please consider donating today.

(This is my official noodge.)

And Now A Message From Senator Feingold:

I'll start.

My President will be:
  • Law-Abiding
  • Ethical
  • Honest
  • Against Torture
  • Cognisant of the fact that 1) The Executive Branch of Government is only one of three co-equal branches of government, and 2) that each was designed to serve as a check and balance to the other two, and 3) Presidents should act accordingly.

Anyone else?

August 29, 2007

The Littlest Democrat



My nephew, Bobby, and his big sister, Rachel.

One PJ on McIntire Today?

I think I'll be on THE JOHN MCINTIRE SHOW (1-4 PM) ON 93.7 FM THE ZONE around 2:25 PM today.

I say "think" because he emailed me about it this morning as I was walking out the door to see my new nephew and we've been playing phone/email tag.

Listen live anyway at www.937thezone.com

McIntire's blog: http://www.macyapper.blogspot.com

Blogroll Update

Added:
The Rusted View
http://rustedview.us/

Null Space*
http://nullspace2.blogspot.com/

Early Returns**
http://www.post-gazette.com/earlyreturns

* Now I no longer need to go there from a link at The Burgh Report.

** I apologize to everyone for the redesign of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's website (Pittsburgh WOW! or Now or whatever).

Obviously the new design was nothing but a ploy to get 2pj to blogroll their Early Returns blog. The P-G knew that if they went from having me simply click on "Elections" on the upper right corner of their old home page which led to a big link for Early Returns and instead made me hover over something called "Multimedia" then maneuver to "Blogs" then scroll way down to a link to Early Returns that I'd be forced to just blogroll ER.

Seriously, P-G, wouldn't it make sense to cross-promote your blogs under major categories to which they logically belong? Like a link to Early Returns under "Politics"? Perhaps this is just an oversight . . . or maybe you really want to keep all your blogs in some sort of blog ghetto . . .

Bloopers, Blunders, and Mayor Luke on KD/PG Sunday Edition

Three local bloggers review Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's, um, performance on KDKA's Sunday morning KD/PG Sunday Edition.

Bram at The Pittsburgh Comet has a comprehensive rundown on the insanity inanities show.

The Burgher at The Burgh Report focuses on Luke's empty Pittsburgh Promise and calls his performance on the program " disastrous."

PittGirl at The Burgh Blog does what PittGirl does: And...Drink!

However, none of them mention my two favorite moments:
1. When Ken Rice reminds Lil Mayor Luke that he was only on the Letterman show as a "novelty."

2. When Ken Rice reminded Lil Mayor Luke that he was not actually one of the celebrities at Mario's charity golf outing.
Yeah, I'm shallow like dat.

By all means read what the awful bloggers who make Luke's Mom cry have to say, but PLEASE also watch the atrocities yourself:

Part One: http://kdka.com/video/?id=31275@kdka.dayport.com
Part Two: http://kdka.com/video/?id=31276@kdka.dayport.com

EVENTS

August 29, 2007 - TODAY!

One Hill CBA Coalition Press Briefing
WHAT:
One Hill CBA Coalition Press Briefing
WHEN: Wednesday, August 29, 2007, 10:00 AM
WHERE: Freedom Unlimited, Alma Speed Fox Building, 2201 Wylie Avenue (Corner of Wylie and Kirkpatrick)

"As negotiations approach for the Community Benefit Agreement around arena and Hill development, the One Hill CBA Coalition will conduct a press briefing Today at 10 a.m. The purpose of the briefing will be to share the process by which One Hill reached credibility as the representative for the Hill District in CBA negotiations as well as the process used to come to community consensus regarding community demands."

YDAC Monthly Meeting
WHAT: Young Dems of Allegheny County Meeting
WHEN: Wednesday, August 29, 2007, 6:30 PM
WHERE: Allegheny Democratic Headquarters (810 River Ave, PGH, PA 15212)

"Join us for our monthly meeting. Candidates and Elected Officials are encouraged to attend. If you would like to speak at an upcoming meeting or would like to place a discussion item on our agenda, please fill out and submit this form from our website. We will be voting on changes to our by-laws to allow for the election next month." Visit the Young Democrats of Allegheny County on the Web: http://www.youngdemsallegheny.com

August 29, 2007

Public Hearing on State Act 55
WHAT: Public Hearing on State Act 55 for Non-profits and Tax Exemptions
WHEN: Thursday, August 30, 2007, 9:00 AM - Noon
WHERE: Pittsburgh City Council Chambers, City-County Building, 414 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 (Corner of Grant & Forbes, 5th Floor)

"This coming Thursday, August 30, the Pennsylvania Senate Finance Committee will hold a public hearing to "review" Act 55 of 1997, the Purely Public Charities Act...Act 55 is the law that allows hospitals, health insurers, and universities to avoid property taxation and other civic responsibilities." (More info at The Comet here.)

September 3, 2007

Register Voters on Labor Day
WHAT: Young Dems of Allegheny County (& Other Dems) registering voters
WHEN: Monday, September 3, 2007, 7:30 AM
WHERE: Center Ave and Mario Lemieux Place, Downtown Pittsburgh

"We will be joining other Democrats to help register as many new voters as possible at the Labor Day parade. We will meet at the location of the start of the parade...We will then march the course of the parade and encourge the spectators to make a difference on election day. Sign up here by clicking here!"

September 4 - 6, & 11 - 12, 2007

Pittsburgh Climate Initiative Town-hall Meetings
WHAT: Pittsburgh Climate Initiative Town-hall Meetings
WHEN: September 4 - 6, & 11 - 12, 2007
WHERE: North Side, Squirrel Hill, Greenfield, Downtown, Brookline (Meetings already took place in South Side, Mt. Washington & East End)

From ReformPittsburghNow: "The Pittsburgh Climate Protection Initiative is taking the show on the road. On Tuesday, September 4th, they will be at the Allegheny Unitarian Church and on Wednesday, September 5th, they will be at Wightman School in Squirrel Hill. More meetings are being planned and the details can be found at their website. The goal of these meetings is to hear from you on ways Pittsburgh can be proactive in lessening our emissions." Meeting details can be found here.

September 10, 2007

Pittsburgh City Council Post-Agenda Hearing on Police & Domestic Violence
WHAT: Post-Agenda Hearing on Police & Domestic Violence
WHEN: Monday, September 10, 2007, 1:30 PM (NOTE: meeting was originally set for 1:00 PM)
WHERE: Pittsburgh City Council Chambers, City-County Building, 414 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 (Corner of Grant & Forbes, 5th Floor)

Follow-up meeting to the Public Hearing concerning the Pittsburgh Police Department's policy regarding officers with histories of domestic violence. Please note that the time has changed from 1:00 Pm to 1:30 PM.

September 14 - 16, 2007

Camp Wellstone at Pittsburgh
WHAT:
Camp Wellstone
WHEN: Friday - Sunday, September 14 - 16, 2007
WHERE: Pittsburgh, PA

"Camp Wellstone is for anyone who wants to improve their skills to organize and build political power, but is specifically geared towards people running or considering running for office, working on electoral campaigns, or organizing on issues in their communities. To learn more about Camp Wellstone, click here. If you can think of individuals, organizations, or campaigns that could benefit, please encourage them to attend. To register, sign up online here or visit www.wellstone.org ."

September 15, 2007

Forum on Open Government & Pennsylvania Open Records Law Workshop
WHAT: Open Government & Pennsylvania Open Records Law Workshop
WHEN: Saturday, September 15, 2007, 1:00 - 4:00 PM
WHERE: William Pitt Student Union on Pitt's Oakland campus, Pittsburgh PA

"Team 4 Investigative Reporter Jim Parsons and I [Bob Mayo] have been working on a special event and you're invited to join us. We think you'll find it interesting, whether you work in the news media or you're someone who wants to learn more about your rights as a Pennsylvania citizen to access pubic records...The event is co-sponsored by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition." More info at Mayo's blog and you can RSVP at event's website here.
.

Mike Pintek's Feeble Argument

Caught a little of Night Talk last night. Mike Pintek interviewed Jennifer Victor, professor of Political Science over at Pitt.

It was an impressive choice for Pintek. He ususally interviews an obvious (and right-wing) partisan as a "political analyst" (Bill Green comes to mind here) but this time he actually seems to have snagged someone who spoke about politics without tilting the political scales in one direction or another.

And I think it threw Pintek a little - and that was fun to watch.

Anyway, they got around to discussing the latest Republican sex scandal when Pintek unveiled his defense. He asked "Isn't there something of a double standard at play here?" When Professor Victor asked what he meant, he brought up two sex scandals that involved Democrats: Gerry Studds' intern and Barney Frank's prostitution ring. Pintek said Studds was re-elected after the scandal hit and Barney Frank's still in the Congress after his scandal - I guess he was trying to point out how the Democrats go easy on their scandals, while the Republicans don't.

At this point I was feverishly trying to call in to correct the record. But all I got was a busy signal.

Let me point out a few things - perhaps someone can send Mr Pintek a link to this posting so perhaps he can learn a thing or two.

On Barney Frank.

Here's how Mediamatters describes things:
In August 1989, Stephen Gobie reportedly told The Washington Times that he ran a prostitution ring out of Frank's Washington, D.C., apartment and that Frank was aware of his operation. While Frank admitted to paying Gobie for sex several years earlier and to later hiring Gobie as an assistant, Frank denied any knowledge that Gobie allegedly ran a prostitution ring out of Frank's apartment. Frank maintained that he fired Gobie upon being told by one of his landlords that Gobie was using his residence for his prostitution business. As The Guardian reported on August 30, 1989, Frank actually "asked the House ethics committee ... to investigate his relationship with" Gobie.
The Boston Globe reported in 1990 that the House Ethics Committee found that Frank had "violated House rules by writing a misleading memo that was used in an effort to end prostitute Stephen Gobie's probation on felony charges and by allowing his House privileges to be used to waive 33 parking tickets that Gobie might have received while driving Frank's car." And for that, Frank was reprimanded in July of 1990.

The Ethics Committee absolved Frank of allegations that he was aware of any prostitution ring being run out of his house.

Not only that, but the Ethics Committee seems to have doubted that there was a prostitution ring in the first place. Here's Mediamatters quoting the ethics committee report:
Not only have Representative Frank's landlords, Colonel and Mrs. James Daugherty, submitted sworn testimony contradicting Mr. Gobie's assertion, Mr. Gobie's assertion has also been rendered questionable by the fact that his claims of call-forwarding service were contradicted by the telephone company.
Something else Mike Pintek didn't say. But take a look at when this all happened. This was 1990. And while it's true that the name of the man sitting in the Oval Office was "George Bush" it's still 17 years ago. Pintek is reaching back a generation to find this Democratic sex scandal.

On Gerry Studds.

Gerry Studds admitted to having an affair with a 17 year old male congressional page. That much Mike got right. What Mike Pintek didn't say was that Studds admitted this in 24 years ago in 1983. And the affair itself? It took place 10 years before that in 1973. So Pintek is reaching back 34 years to find this sex scandal involving a Democrat. By the way, the affair was consensual and the page, being 17 years old, was over the age of consent - so it was legal. The House censured him by a vote of 420-3.

It was embarrassing to watch, to be honest.

Another Bob comes into the world

I'm an aunt -- eight times over.

Happy Birthday, Bobby!

I'm not certain if you were born on the 28th or 29th, but I'm sure we'll get that all straightened out in the morning.

(Click here to see Bobby's big sister.)

August 28, 2007

Gonzales Finds New Job
Moves to Pgh to Work for Ravenstahl Administration

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl remarked of the new hire, "Myself, I'm tired of questions about who I eat or play golf with. After an exhaustive national search I've found someone to advise me on ethics and honesty and Alberto Gonzales is my guy."

Ravenstahl added, "I'm moving forward with this thing and I better get some points in the media for diversity too."

After the mini press conference, Ravenstahl and Gonzales changed out of their suits and played nine holes. Mayor Ravenstahl said he would have preferred to get in 18 but it was, after all, a work day.

.

Gonzales' Resignation: Local Reactions

First the Trib. They only point out the US Attorney firings, not the torture or the domestic surveillance or the lying to Congress, just the US Attorney firings.

When Congress questioned the firing of several U.S. attorneys, Gonzales needed to say only one thing: "They served at the pleasure of the president. Under the Constitution neither the president nor his attorney general owes Congress an explanation."

Instead, Gonzales dug a hole defending a thing that required no defense.

Of course once it came out that the Republican US Attorneys were being fired because they weren't "loyal Bushies" enough, it tainted the rest of the US Attorneys everywhere as being little more than political appointees doing the bidding of the Bush White House - and that was the problem. And then he lied about it to Congress.

The P-G takes a different tack - they include some of (the now disgraced and soon-to-be former) AG "Fredo" Gonzales dubious accomplishments:
His fingerprints had been all over some of the worst excesses of the administration -- the expanding of presidential powers, the eavesdropping, the justifications for harsh treatment bordering on torture and the dubious rules for prosecuting detainees in the war on terror. He came under fire, justifiably, in March when it was revealed that the FBI had improperly used the Patriot Act to obtain information about people and businesses -- which was all of a piece with his earlier record.
Though I would, of course, quibble with the phrase "harsh treatment bordering on torture." When the International Red Cross says it's "tantamount" to torture, it is torture - not bordering on torture.

Both editorials, however, lay some of the blame at dubya's feet. The Trib:
We cannot leave this without assessing the performance of the president who promoted Gonzales largely because he was a friend.
And the P-G:
Mr. Gonzales was not chosen attorney general because of his legal scholarship but because he was an old friend from Texas who didn't know how to say no to Mr. Bush.
Heckova job, dubya. Heckova job.

Another Republican Sex Scandal

This time, Admiral, it's a US Senator.

It's Larry Craig Republican Senator from Idaho.

You know the drill - another "family values" guy. Another "family values" guy who's obviously in the closet. Another "family values" guy who's obviously in the closet who pleads guilty after being busted for lewd behaviour in an airport bathroom.

Now all that's left is his hypocrisy.

August 27, 2007

First Rummy, then Turd Blossom, now Abu Gonzales

The rats are either fleeing the sinking ship or resigning in disgrace . . .

Jesus, Mary and Joseph! If I hear one more talking head on TV spew how Alberto Gonzales embodies/lived "The American Dream" I'll start spewing chunks.

The American Dream does not include torture.

The American Dream does not include warrantless wiretaps on its citizens.

The American Dream does not include firing good US Attorneys because they won't play politics with justice.

The American Dream does not include lying to Congress.

The American Dream does not include advising the President of these United States that he can break any law and ignore the US Constitution.

Back on Friday, January 28, 2005, we published a post entitled "Unacceptable" at 2 Political Junkies that opened with:
It is simply unacceptable for the United States of America to have the prime legal architect for the policy of torture adopted by the Bush Dynasty as the Attorney General of this country.

A country founded on the rights of the individual cannot sanctify a person to be the Attorney General of these United States who sanctified torture as long as it wasn't "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

The US Attorney General's job is to function as the chief law enforcement officer of the Federal Government. In that capacity the US Attorney General provides assistance and guidance to the heads of executive departments of the Government.

We already know that Alberto R. Gonzales advised the President that the United States Constitution does not apply to his actions as Commander in Chief, and thus the President could declare the Geneva Conventions (which Gonzales views as "quaint") inoperative.

We know that Alberto R. Gonzales believes that the President has the power to ignore the Constitution, laws duly enacted by Congress and International treaties duly ratified by the United States.

These views are unacceptable in a US Attorney General.

For these reasons, the 2 Political Junkies blog opposes the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him.

Anyone with half a brain should have known back then exactly what kind of justice to expect from Abu Gonzales:


They should have known that he was the kind of guy, for example, who would go over the head of the acting Attorney General to harass a sick old man (Ashcroft) in the ICU to try to get him to allow Abu to keep spying on the citizens of this country -- and lie to the Congress about the whole sick, sordid episode later.

For some recent examples of Abu's problems as covered by 2pj, you can click here. Even many Republicans could no longer stomach the guy.

But, let's not forget that when you hear the MSM call Abu the last of Bush's "Texas Mafia" in the White House how accurate that description is.

The Mafia needs sleazy attorneys to keep them in business and Gonzales was exactly that from the start. After all, he's the guy who in 1996 got Bush out of jury duty so that his DUI wouldn't come out before an election.


Alberto Gonzales and George W. Bush forgot that the United States Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. He's not supposed to be one of it's chief criminals.

But, it shouldn't end with his resignation. While Gonzales is now on his way out, he still must be held accountable for his illegal actions as must the rest of this gangland crew.

Three down,* two to go!**

* Rumsfeld, Rove, Gonzales
** Cheney, Bush

Pittsburgh (City Government) Ethics

Gary Rotstein has a piece in today's P-G that might require a little reading between the lines. Here's the set-up (from the Trib):

Pittsburgh's Ethics Hearing Board on Tuesday cleared Ravenstahl of violating ethics rules when he accepted the two days of free golf. His share was worth $9,000. The outing was acceptable because of an exception in Pittsburgh's rules for charitable events.

The law doesn't require public officials to stay within a maximum dollar limit, and Ravenstahl said playing in the tournament -- which was closed to the public -- wasn't a gift. Board members said they might consult other cities, and revise some rules.

In some cities where ethics rules are stricter, free golf is a gift, said [director of Baltimore's ethics board Avery] Aisenstark and other officials.

"Cleared" might not be the best word as what happened last week was a discussion rather than an investigation. There were no charges brought, no complaints filed, so there was nothing to "clear" exactly. But it's obvious that the board doesn't feel that the ethics code isn't specific enough about situations like this.

So it's looking to change the ethics code. Rotstein:
The five-member Ethics Hearing Board made clear to Mr. Ravenstahl last week that it hoped to persuade City Council to change the code to address occasions of large-scale, third-party gifts, such as sponsorship of his golf play by UPMC and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Why are they looking to chage the code, unless they thought that what Mayor Luke did was wrong?

All kinds of questions can arise from such high-end outings: How much does a public official benefit by participating? Is his participation helpful to the charity? Does it matter who invited and paid for him? How much does the dollar value of the sponsorship matter?

In questioning the mayor about his participation, the ethics board members -- who stressed it was a discussion, not an investigation -- made clear they believe such third-party sponsorships can give a bad appearance. Both UPMC and the Penguins have had high-profile dealings with the city this year.

The state ethics code is little help:

Pennsylvania's ethics code also applies to all municipal officials, but it is worded rather generally and the state commission has had no case with the same issues as the mayor's golf outing to establish any precedent, said John Contino, the commission's executive director.

"The rule on direct gifts is no public official may accept a gift if it's intended to influence decision-making," he said.

Unless you want to assume that even though UPMC and the Penguins shelled out more money than many Pittsburghers make in a year for young Luke to play a couple of days of golf and that they had absolutely positively hand-on-the-bible cross-my-heart-hope-to-die no intention of influencing any decisions our well-dressed mayor will be making about the millions of dollars of business those two corporations have before the city, then all is well.

August 26, 2007

Jack Kelly Sunday

Take a look at today's column by Jack Kelly. It's only partially surprising that he trots out, at one point, the old war horse blaming of 9/11 on Bill Clinton at least in part. I say partially because that argument's been a standard of the wingnut right from about 9/12. Need some evidence? Here's Bill Press, then at CNN, writing in mid-October, 2oo1:

The attacks of September 11 were only a few hours old when conservative Congressman Dana Rohrbacher, R-California, blamed Clinton, not the terrorists: “We had Bill Clinton, backing off, letting the Taliban go, over and over again.”

Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh trumpeted on the pages of the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Clinton can be held culpable for not doing enough when he was commander-in-chief to combat the terrorists who wound up attacking the World Trade Center and Pentagon.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who resigned in disgrace, also chimed in, citing Clinton’s “pathetically weak, ineffective ability to focus and stay focused.”

Jack begins his tale in Seattle. The FBI up there has been circulating the photos of a couple of men who they said were acting suspiciously on the state ferries up there. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer refused to publish the photos. The reason?
"We have no confirmation that these men's behavior was anything but innocuous, and to forever taint them by associating them with terrorism under these circumstances is not consistent with our policy," said managing editor David McCumber.
To Jack, that's enough. Those two guys were acting suspiciously and so their photos should be plastered all over the area, tagging them as terrorists. Jack's criticism is that they Seattle P-I is taking the "law enforcement approach" to terror. The FBI, he writes, thinks it's more important to keep a ferry from being bombed than it is to arrest the bombers afterward.

See? They're already bombers to Jack Kelly. Bombers that need to be stopped.

However, from the P-I's reporting earlier this week of the incident:

The FBI has no information suggesting that a terrorist attack on the ferry system is imminent, [Special Agent Robbie] Burroughs said.

For weeks, the FBI has been trying to identify the men through "normal law enforcement channels," she said.

So not only did the FBI have no information that a terrorist attack was imminent but the Bureau, too, seems to be taking the "law enforcement approach" in tracking down these guys.

Something Jack didn't tell us.

Also, I gotta ask: if the guys were actually planning to commit an act of terror, isn't that already a crime? So Jack's simple reasoning of "they think that until the bomb goes off, there's no crime" is just nuts, as his his projection of it onto Democrats in Congress.

But let's get to the meat of the column.
We were reminded of the weakness of the law enforcement approach by the release last week of the executive summary of the report of the CIA's inspector general on the CIA's performance before 9/11. The CIA was hamstrung in its efforts to fight al-Qaida by severe budget cuts imposed by the Clinton administration, but then CIA Director George Tenet did a poor job of managing the funds he had, and never developed an overall strategy to fight terror, the IG report said.
There it is! The CIA was hamstrung by budget cuts - and so it's CLINTON'S fault. I used to read Kelly's column always wondering how long it took him to blame whatever he was writing about on the Clinton Administration. This column he pushes the wingnut button in the 8th (out of 13) paragraph. By the way, here's what the report actually says:
Funding for the Agency's counterterrorism programs increased significantly from Fiscal Year (FY)1998 to FY2001 as a result of supplemental appropriations. These funds were appropriated, in part, because of the efforts of the CIA's director and senior leaders to convince the administration and Congress that the Agency was short of resources for counterterrorism and other resources.
That was page 6. On page 7 it says:
The Team did find, however, that during the same period they were appealing the shortage of resources, senior officials were not effectively managing the Agency's counterterrorism funds.
So Jack got it half right. The CIA's funds for counterterrorism, according to this report "increased significantly" from '98 to '01. Wasn't Bill Clinton president in 1998? 1999? 2000? In fact, the CIA was redistributing funds away from its counterterrorism programs though:
The Team found that the Agency made little use of the Reserve for Contingencies to support its counterterrorism effort. Finally CTC managers did not spend all of the funds in their base budget, even after it had been reduced by diversions of funds to other programs.

But to Jack Kelly, there were severe budget cuts during the Clinton Administration that lead to the CIA's failures to stop 9/11. Couldn't help himself, I guess.

Then there's this about Michael Scheuer:
Counter-terror efforts also were crippled by President Clinton's insistence that Osama bin Laden be arrested rather than assassinated, Michael Scheuer, who headed the CIA's bin Laden unit, has said. The IG report acknowledges this was a problem, but "concludes the Agency's covert action against bin Laden lay not in the language and interpretations of its authorities, but in the limitations of its covert action capabilities."
However, Michael Scheuer has also said:

But what troubles me most is Tenet's handling of the opportunities that CIA officers gave the Clinton administration to capture or kill bin Laden between May 1998 and May 1999. Each time we had intelligence about bin Laden's whereabouts, Tenet was briefed by senior CIA officers at Langley and by operatives in the field. He would nod and assure his anxious subordinates that he would stress to Clinton and his national security team that the chances of capturing bin Laden were solid and that the intelligence was not going to get better. Later, he would insist that he had kept up his end of the bargain, but that the NSC had decided not to strike.

Since 2001, however, several key Clinton counterterrorism insiders (including NSC staffers Richard A. Clarke, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon) have reported that Tenet consistently denigrated the targeting data on bin Laden, causing the president and his team to lose confidence in the hard-won intelligence. "We could never get over the critical hurdle of being able to corroborate Bin Ladin's whereabouts," Tenet now writes. That of course is untrue, but it spared him from ever having to explain the awkward fallout if an attempt to get bin Laden failed. None of this excuses Clinton's disinterest in protecting Americans, but it does show Tenet's easy willingness to play for patsies the CIA officers who risked their lives to garner intelligence and then to undercut their work to avoid censure if an attack went wrong.

Setting aside the "Clinton's disinterest in protecting Americans" crap, Scheuer himself lays the blame at Tenet's feet.

The same George Tenet who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the current occupant of the Oval Office.

And it only took me that long to criticize dubya.

August 24, 2007

Assault on Reason

Tony Norman's column today is another of his "reading list" pieces:
Enough readers have asked me to put together a list of books I've read or have been in the process of reading this year, so it doesn't feel like a completely delusional exercise on my part. Lately, I've developed a taste for classic science fiction, Jason Bourne thrillers and Stephen King novels that aren't reflected on this list. Like many readers, I'm usually reading several books at a time. What follows is merely the stuff that is allegedly good for you:
The first on his list?
"The Assault on Reason" by Al Gore. Even some of my liberal buddies think this book is dull. I couldn't disagree more. Mr. Gore's analytical critique of the Bush administration's fear-based politics and its notorious indifference to fact-based reasoning only feels obvious after he's explained it. If only the leading Democratic presidential candidates were this "dull."
That would be me. Here's what I wrote on August 9:

It's not that I disagreed with anything I read in Gore's book - far from it. It's an important work that everyone should read, no question. But while it may or may not be written by Gore alone, it certainly sounds like it's a work written by a committee all trying to sound like Al Gore.

It's an odd torture, of sorts. You know each page contains important ideas. But sitting through (and sifting through) the text...oh god. Not fun.

So Tony, if it means that much to you, I'll try to plow through it again. I'll have to set aside Warren Weaver's book on probability and of course Marvel Zombies, but I'll try.

If anything, I'll get more sleep.

August 23, 2007

Altmire/Hoyer Press Conference

As mentioned here, Congressman Jason Altmire was in Pittsburgh today and he had with him House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Altmire was in town to raise his own political profile and Hoyer was in town stumping for Altmire (who may be running against Missy Hart again, doncha know). With the staffs and a smattering of media, there were some invited veterans. Army, Navy and so on.

Ostensibly, the two were here to discuss legislation making its way through Congress; one ensuring early screening of Iraq war veterans for Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and the other to strengthen the Family Medical Leave Act.

The press conference (my first, by the way, as a blogger) was held in the courtyard of the Family Court Division downtown. Right away, let me say how difficult it was to find the door to this place. Also, the walls were three or four stories high, with no windows. The place was like a prison or something. And it was hot, too hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot.

Ok, maybe I am over stating. But it was very hot. And muggy.

The press conference was to take place in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the courtyard, though it was decided just before to have the press folks (myself included) huddle around the Congressmen

It was hot out. Even in the shade, it was hot.

5:00 and it was supposed to begin. Altmire was there with his staff chatting with a few invited veterans, Hoyer had not yet arrived. Cheerful hellos all around.

Did I mention yet how hot it was?

After some last minute police security bustle, Congressman Hoyer arrived with some of his staff. Introductions. back and forth. Hoyer, when I introduced myself as a "local blogger" (what else was I going to say?), joked about how bloggers were the newest thing. Though everything was very completely stress-free, I did notice a suit hanging back at the far doorway - a dark suit who's jacket didn't quite fit around the hips, speaking occasionally into a palm microphone. Interesting.

KQV was there as was Brown of the Trib.

Altmire went first. He pointed out how he considered the health care of the nation's veterans to be a "#1 priority" and talked a little about two of his bills incorporated into the Recommendations made by the Dole/Shalala Commission. They've increased funding to the VA by $15 Billion - a system, Altmire said, had been chronically underfunded. Someone had to be held accountable for Walter Reed.

Hoyer continued. After praising Altmire for having an extraordinary impact on The House, he expanded on the points Altmire began with. Honor the vets and honor the troops and so on. He then got down to some details. The reason that TBI is the "signature injury of the war in Iraq" is because (and here's the irony) medical science has progressed a great deal in the past few decades. Soldiers and Marines are surviving wounds in Iraq that would have killed 40 years ago in Vietnam. Hoyer had some statistics. In Vietnam, there was one death to every three injuries. In Iraq, the number is one to sixteen.

Unfortunately a great deal of those injuries are TBI. Sometimes diagnosis is missed. With early detection (which is mandated in Altmire's bill) much needed treatment can begin.

When asked about the cost of strengthening the Family Medical Leave Act, Hoyer answered by saying that with this Congress, the Democrats have instituted a "pay as you go" system. So whatever increase there'd be, it would not increase the already huge national debt.

On the war, Hoyer was quite clear in saying that the Democrats support the troops and are showing that support by working to get them out of harms way.

Some of the details that followed - eh, not so much.

"It's time to change course," he said. And troop withdrawal should be "sooner rather than later" beginning to move them at a "reasonable time" in under a year. All-in-all a political solution is necessary - not a military one.

When I asked what exactly Congressman Altmire meant by accountability for Walter Reed, he said that Congress has to ascertain why it happened and who's responsible - why it took an article in the Washington Post to bring the situation to light. Complaints, he said, had been raised for a long time he said - even in the Congress. Hoyer added that the previous Congresses exercised little oversight over many things. What happened at Walter Reed was going on for a long time. With no oversight.

And then with a few photos, it was done. The press conference was over.

Confidential Letter to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

NOTE: This letter is meant only for our Mayor (I know his Mom reads the
local blogs and hope she'll send him a link). I would ask everyone else to
please read no further and I thank you in advance for your cooperation.


Dear Mayor Luke:

I hope that this does not seem rude or presumptuous of me, but I'm beginning to fear that you have difficulty understanding the meaning of certain words and I feel compelled to try to help. I've put together a brief glossary of the words/concepts that seem to elude you most. Feel free to print this, cut out the glossary and keep it taped to the wall of your office or, better still, carry a copy around in your wallet.

Technical Terms for New Pittsburgh Mayors:

CHARITY:
This is when someone gives something to help someone else. For example, when UPMC and the Penguins gave you $9,000 worth of tickets to a charitable event, you were not giving charity, you were receiving charity or a gift (see below) because as you yourself noted, you could not have afforded to attend that golf outing on your own salary. Therefore, you were the needy person receiving help.

GIFT:
This is when you get something without paying for it. Being from the Old Boy School of Politics, you may want to note that envelopes stuffed with cash are not the only things that constitute a gift.

INVITATION:
This concept seems to give you some trouble. The dictionary defines this as: "A spoken or written request for someone's presence or participation." There are subtleties to the concept that, again, you may want to note, such as most people wait for an invitation and do not request one. Secondly, if you do request an invitation and the person says that they will "get back to you" and don't, you should not consider yourself invited. Thirdly, if you have not received an invitation and then proceed to show up anyway, you're not a "guest." You're a "crasher."

WORK:
Unless you are a golf pro (one who is actually paid for the act of golfing), golfing is generally not considered to be work and it is generally frowned upon to golf during work hours.


Quick Review (Answer Key below):
Q.1
Ron Burkle (or some other billionaire) invites you to ride on his private plane to NYC (LA, Miami, etc.) and you have such a good time you can't remember exactly where you spent the night. Should this be considered:
A. INVITATION & WORK
B. CHARITY & WORK
C. INVITATION & GIFT

Q.2 Your childhood hero comes to a nearby town to attend a private function for which guests have paid a good bit of money. You just show up. Should this be considered:
A. INVITATION & WORK
B. INVITATION & GIFT
C. CRASHING

Q.3 A group of scary angry women/scary Hill residents expect you to attend a meeting. You go golfing instead. Should this be considered:
A. WORK
B. CHARITY
C. NOT WORK

Q.4 You are in line to attend a Steelers game. While waiting, you conclude that, "Myself and everybody else that was in the front of the line at that point simply had no control over our bodies or anything." You therefore decide to start a shouting match with a police officer in which you use naughty words. You end up being led away in handcuffs. Should this be considered:
A. WORK
B. CHARITY
C. CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR

Answer Key:
While this may be difficult for you to believe, the correct answers are all "C."

Next Lesson: we will devote our entire time to tackling the challenging concept of LYING.

Bush Gets It Right!

Compares Iraq to Vietnam:




Countdown's take on that here:

Some Previously Secret FISA Details

According to the AP, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell revealed to The El Paso (Texas) Times some previously secret details:

  • McConnell confirmed for the first time that the private sector assisted with President Bush's warrantless surveillance program. AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications companies are being sued for their cooperation. "Now if you play out the suits at the value they're claimed, it would bankrupt these companies," McConnell said, arguing that they deserve immunity for their help.
  • He provided new details on court rulings handed down by the 11- member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves classified eavesdropping operations and whose proceedings are almost always entirely secret. McConnell said a ruling that went into effect May 31 required the government to get court warrants to monitor communications between two foreigners if the conversation travels on a wire in the U.S. network. Millions of calls each day do, because of the robust nature of the U.S. systems.
  • McConnell said it takes 200 hours to assemble a FISA warrant on a single telephone number. "We're going backwards," he said. "We couldn't keep up."
  • Offering never-disclosed figures, McConnell also revealed that fewer than 100 people inside the United States are monitored under FISA warrants. However, he said, thousands of people overseas are monitored.
Actually in the interview he called them "man hours" - I'll leave it to others to sort out the gender politics at play in that sentence.

He also said that Americans will die because of the discussion about FISA:

Q. So you're saying that the reporting and the debate in Congress means that some Americans are going to die?

A. That's what I mean. Because we have made it so public. We used to do these things very differently, but for whatever reason, you know, it's a democratic process and sunshine's a good thing. We need to have the debate. The reason that the FISA law was passed in 1978 was an arrangement was worked out between the Congress and the administration, we did not want to allow this community to conduct surveillance, electronic surveillance, of Americans for foreign intelligence unless you had a warrant, so that was required. So there was no warrant required for a foreign target in a foreign land. And so we are trying to get back to what was the intention of '78. Now because of the claim, counterclaim, mistrust, suspicion, the only way you could make any progress was to have this debate in an open way.

And so it goes.

P-G Editorial Board: Luke Doesn't Get It

From today's editorial. After the board points out that Mayor Luke told the ethics board that he received nothing of value, they state the obvious:
Excuse us, not only did he play golf at an exclusive club with UPMC and Penguins executives, but the mayor's foursomes also included Penguins star Sidney Crosby and former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann. The event was so memorable that the mayor didn't mind showing reporters, in his office after the hearing, two photos of his golfing groups. Yet he downplayed the whole event before the ethics panel.

"The only thing of value I received was knowing I played a small part in seeing the work of the foundation will continue," the mayor told the board. "This was not a gift to me. I received nothing from UPMC."

It's true that no one gave Luke Ravenstahl a check for $9,000, but his two-day golf treat reminds us of the boy whose grandparents take him to Kennywood Park for the day. They pay the little shiner's $19 admission, only to hear the boy say later, "My grandparents gave me nothing of value. All I received was knowing I played a small part in the continued vitality of a cherished local institution."

And they hit the "Luke is immature" button one more time:
While the mayor may not have violated the city ethics code (it exempts charities from its limits on free event admissions for city officials), his failure to see how his actions could create an appearance of impropriety should be a big worry for all Pittsburghers. His lack of an apology betrays a certain immaturity.
As Mark DeSantis said, the fact the mayor doesn't see it is astounding.

August 22, 2007

More Law Breaking By The Bush Administration

How surprising.

From the Bloomberg News.

The Bush administration violated U.S. law by failing to produce a study on the impact of global warming and must issue a summary by March, a federal judge ruled.

District Judge Saundra Armstrong in Oakland, California, said the U.S. government "unlawfully withheld action'' required under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 to update a research plan and scientific assessment of climate change.

Again, how surprising.

Caption Contest

How would you caption this picture?

Best caption wins a beer. A good one, too. Like a Yingling or something.

Altmire Press Conference

NOTE: An earlier version of this posting went out early this morning. After rereading it at work, I was unhappy with some of the tone of it. It felt a little too "snarky blogger to ambush a politico." Not that I have anything against ambushing a politico, I just didn't want that particular message sent this morning.

Re-written.

Got a press release yesterday that said this:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-5) will join Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-4) Thursday in Pittsburgh to discuss the accomplishments of the 110th Congress in providing real support for our troops and veterans, including legislation authored by Congressman Altmire that will ensure the proper screening and treatment of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that will extend Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits to family members of military personnel who are deployed.
As it's a press conference and as I'm not exactly mainstream press (I am a poor wayfaring blogger/Trav'ling through this world of woe...), I'm hoping to get in and ask a few questions. Mostly about supporting the troops. For instance, we've heard ad infitinum how it's impossible to support the troops and yet disagree with the war. We read a while back about the scandalous conditions at Walter Reed. What are they doing to make sure the troops (and their families) are taken care of? What's being done to hold the administration accountable?

Time permitting, I'd like to ask about Congressman Altmire's vote in favor (and Congressman Hoyer's vote against) the recent restructuring of the FISA statute. If my memory serves me correctly, he said on Night Talk the other night that he's unhappy with the bill that he voted for and is looking forward to revisiting the issue in 6 months. What parts is he unhappy with? How would he change them?

Questions...

August 21, 2007

DeSantis On The Ravenstahl "Dialogue"

There's been some follow up in the press today over Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's appearance before the city's Ethics Committee. The P-G's Gary Rotstein wrote:
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl insisted to members of the city Ethics Hearing Board today that there was nothing wrong with his participation in a celebrity golf outing, but board officials said they may want new rules clarifying such events.
And a few paragraphs later got to the quotation that should eventually haunt Mayor Luke:
"This was not a gift to me -- I received nothing," he said. "It would be different if I was the [beneficiary] of $9,000. I wasn't."
The story made it onto the AP:
The five-member Ethics Hearing Board questioned Ravenstahl about the June golf outing and about his $9,000 entrance fee, which was paid for by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The board asked whether the arrangement could give the public the perception that the mayor won't be impartial when doing business with the hospital network, the city's biggest employer.
Nice to see it's made it onto the national press.

Not that any of this sways Mark DeSantis, Republican mayoral candidate. "It's not about living up to some bureaucratic language," he told me this evening. He said the code of ethics describes the minimum performance level for a public official. A good public servant has to go above and beyond those minimum requirements.

He repeated his call for the mayor not to accept any gratuities from any entity doing business or looking to do business with the city.

But beyond all that. I ask him whether the mayor had violated the ethics code or just the spirit of the ethics code.

"I think he violated the ethics code." DeSantis said, with little hesitation. Along with the spirit. He bases this on his assertion that no one else would have been able to walk up to that event and get what UPMC and the Penguins paid for him to get. Therefore it's something of value.

"He took something of value." He said. "The fact [the mayor] doesn't see it is astounding."

Frustrating coverage of Lil Mayor Luke's "dialog" with Ethics Board

As The Burgher correctly notes, the most salient fact of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's UPMC/Penguins two-day golf outing is that it he didn't attend the event at the behest/largesse of the charity itself, but that the interested parties of UPMC and the Penguins gave him tickets to the event as a gift.

While watching Bob Mayo's story about this on WTAE's noon broadcast, I was pleased to see this issue mentioned and wrote it down in my notes. I see from an online clip that Jon Delano also brought it up at the top of his piece at KDKA (sorry, WPXI, but KDKA is the only one of the three stations whose video clips I can watch online).

However, when I went to find the online 'TAE story to quote from (and link to), that key point was no where to be found. Nor is it really in the online written edition at KDKA's website. Nor is it brought up in the Post-Gazette's article***.

This is extremely frustrating.

They all did note that Lil Mayor Luke claimed, "This was not a gift to me -- I received nothing." Apparently unless Lukey gets an envelope stuffed with cash like a bride at an Italian wedding, it doesn't count.

One might be forgiven for thinking that this makes our Mayor seem rather dense or very slow.

And, if he isn't dense or slow than he needs an ethics board to follow him around 24/7.

I also bet there's some golfers out there who would like some of that "nothing."

(And, yes, Bram live-blogged the "hearing" here.)

***Bonus Points to Steve Mellon for capturing this classic photo of Luke and for the P-G for printing it:


Aaaw, c'mon, yinz guys got nothin' on me!
.

The God Squad!


You might want to check out this news story by Shreveport KSLA 12's news report:

Homeland Security Enlists Clergy to Quell Public Unrest if Martial Law Ever Declared

Yes, apparently one of the biggest problems that our government anticipates having during a natural disaster or attack is its citizens.

To help out with that, the Department of Homeland Security has God Squads "Clergy Response Teams" to keep us in line keep us comforted.
Such clergy response teams would walk a tight-rope during martial law between the demands of the government on the one side, versus the wishes of the public on the other. "In a lot of cases, these clergy would already be known in the neighborhoods in which they're helping to diffuse that situation," assured Sandy Davis. He serves as the director of the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

For the clergy team, one of the biggest tools that they will have in helping calm the public down or to obey the law is the bible itself, specifically Romans 13. Dr. Tuberville elaborated, "because the government's established by the Lord, you know. And, that's what we believe in the Christian faith. That's what's stated in the scripture."
Apparently it's already been tried with Katrina -- and we all know how well that worked out...

(Heck of a job, GODie?)

Here's the video:

I'd be seriously interested in knowing the denominational makeup of the chaplains that they are recruiting.

(h/t to Shakesville)

Framing (One Mo' Time)

C-SPAN's Washington Journal had two bloggers on yesterday. The first was Matt Stoller of MyDD and now of OpenLeft.com. While C-SPAN often has Democrats on, Matt's unabashed, nearly giddy anti Bush/anti Republican stance was great fun to watch. (An elderly female caller asked the host how could they put on such trash after Matt left. I'm guessing he would have gotten a kick out of that.)

The second blogger was Liz Mair a self-proclaimed "Fresh Voice - a libertarian Republican."

Actually, I was finding Ms. Mair quite reasonable for either a Libertarian or a Republican but then she let the mask slip when she said, "Democrats voted against body armor for the troops."

This is called framing, folks.

If I could have gotten a call through I would have said "And, Republicans voted to have our troops shot at in a civil war."

That would also be framing.

You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto
Screw you Rethugs and your sick, fucking framing
.

Mayor Luke To Face The Music Today - Sorta

Both the P-G and the Trib have articles out today pointing out that today's the day Mayor Luke faces the city's Ethics Board.

Bram's posted on the Trib article already. There's not much more in the P-G. Here's how Blazina begins:
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will tell the city Ethics Hearing Board today why he believes he didn't violate the city's ethics policy when he participated in a charity golf outing as the guest of two organizations that do business with the city.
The framing is at the very least embarrassing to Mayor Luke. He has to show how he hasn't violated the City Code - and the last part of the sentence reminds us that he had some fun on someone else's dime.

Here's the City Code, by the way, if anyone wants to follow along at home.

Checks and Balances, Cheney Style!

Yesterday at a press conference, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said this:

In fact, we were about to issue subpoenas then and one of the senators came to our meeting and said that the vice president had met with the Republican senators and told them they were not allowed to issue subpoenas.

Not quite sure that’s my understanding of the separation of powers, but it seemed to work at that time.

It's about 3/4 of the way through the video at Think Progress.

Impeach.

August 20, 2007

Mike Pintek, This Evening.

I caught a few minutes of Mike Pintek this evening. He was chatting with Congressman Jason Altmire on John McIntire's old show.

They spent most of the time talking about the Congressman's recent trip to the Middle East - which is where Pintek made some mistakes.

Bad Pintek, bad bad Pintek.

He said a few stupid things (they really need to update the talking points over there - I mean he's still plagiarizing Bill O'Reilly on Billo's dailykos rant - something about how the dailykos is the KKK of the left.

But the big mistake he made (and I am sorry to say Congressman Altmire followed suit) was in calling it "General Patraeus' report" when we've actually known since the middle of last week, that the report will actually be written by the White House. Hidden at the tail end of an article from the LA Times (7th paragraph from the end, no less) we find this:
Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.
In fact a majority of the American people, according to a poll done by CNN, already don't trust the report:
A majority of Americans don't trust the upcoming report by the Army's top commander in Iraq on the progress of the war and even if they did, it wouldn't change their mind, according to a new poll.
This report came a day after the LA Times article - note CNN's use of "report by the Army's top commander..."

He also continued the myth that O'Hanlon and Pollack were critics of the Bush administration while failing to point out the many times they were wrong about the war.

Mikey even pointed to this statement from Senators Levin and Warner, to show that the surge is working. Pintek seemed to be focussed on the first part of this sentence, while ignoring the second:
While we believe that the "surge" is having measurable results, and has provided a degree of "breathing space" for Iraqi politicians to make the political compromises which are essential for a political solution in Iraq, we are not optimistic about the prospects for those compromises. [emphasis added]
They failed completely, of course, to even mention this column from Sunday's NYTimes:
Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. [emphasis added]
And so on.

All-in-all your typical Pintek spin. It's not even very interesting.

Karl Rove Update

I can remember hearing New KDKA radio guy, Kevin Miller, say on the air Karl Rove had nothing to do with the Plame case.

This clip should (SHOULD - but remember, we're talking rightwing talk radio where fact ne'er intrude) put that story to rest.

Here's the clip.



The important part happens at the end, with Matt Cooper. Here's a transcript of that portion (h/t to Crooks and Liars):

David Gregory: Matt Cooper, let’s pick up on an aspect of the interview with, with Karl Rove having to do with the leak case, the CIA leak case, that you were part of as well. And something’s that’s very interesting, he, he went out of his way to say, “I would not have been a confirming source on this kind of information” and taking issue with, with Novak’s testimony in his column that he knew who Valerie Plame was. He said he would never confirm that information. That’s different from your experience with him.

Cooper: Yeah, I, I think he was dissembling, to put it charitably. Look, Karl Rove told me about Valerie Plame’s identity on July 11th, 2003. I called him because Ambassador Wilson was in the news that week. I didn’t know Ambassador Wilson even had a wife until I talked to Karl Rove and he said that she worked at the agency and she worked on WMD. I mean, to imply that he didn’t know about it or that this was all the leak…

Gregory: Or that he had heard it from somebody else…

Cooper: …by someone else, or he heard it as some rumor out in the hallway is, is nonsense.

Gregory: But he makes no apologies to Valerie Plame.

Cooper: Karl Rove never apologizes. That’s not what he does..

For those keeping score at home, Robert Novak's column where we all read this:

Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me that Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counterproliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. "I will not answer any question about my wife," Wilson told me.

Was published on July 14th, three days after the phone call Cooper described. Three days after Rove leaked the information to Cooper.

For Kevin Miller (or for that fact for anyone) to say that Karl Rove had nothing to do with the leak is just plain wrong.

How wrong? This wrong:

Good Morning, Pittsburgh.

August 19, 2007

Sunday. Jack Kelly. Global Warming. Spin.

Sigh. I thought we'd gotten further than this. With great disappointment, I guess I have to accept that this week's column by Jack Kelly is strong evidence that he does not, in fact, read this blog.

Or else he would have seen this posting from Thursday. Perhaps if he'd seen it, he would have saved himself a whole mess of embarrassment.

No matter. We'll just retrace our steps.

He begins:

Al Gore claimed in his 2006 crockumentary "An Inconvenient Truth" that nine of the 10 hottest years in history have been in the last decade, with 1998 the warmest year on record.

Not so, says the GISS, which is affiliated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Columbia University, and is headed by Dr. James Hansen, scientific godfather of global warming alarmism. According to the GISS, the hottest years ever in the United States were, in order: 1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938 and 1939.

He then goes on to retell the Trib's editorial in analysed in Thursday's posting. Hey, here's an interesting question: How much of a difference is there between the newly corrected temperature data from 1934 and 1998?

Here's how a real climate scientist, Gavin Schmidt, describes things:

The net effect of the change was to reduce mean US anomalies by about 0.15 ºC for the years 2000-2006. There were some very minor knock on effects in earlier years due to the GISTEMP adjustments for rural vs. urban trends. In the global or hemispheric mean, the differences were imperceptible (since the US is only a small fraction of the global area).

There were however some very minor re-arrangements in the various rankings (see data). Specifically, where 1998 (1.24 ºC anomaly compared to 1951-1980) had previously just beaten out 1934 (1.23 ºC) for the top US year, it now just misses: 1934 1.25ºC vs. 1998 1.23ºC. None of these differences are statistically significant.

For those with a calculator, that's two one hundredths of a degree.

I should point out that nowhere in his story (and this matches The Trib more or less exactly) does Jack Kelly mention that the errors affected the US data a tiny bit and the global data not at all.

Schmidt goes on. First about the US data:
More importantly for climate purposes, the longer term US averages have not changed rank. 2002-2006 (at 0.66 ºC) is still warmer than 1930-1934 (0.63 ºC - the largest value in the early part of the century) (though both are below 1998-2002 at 0.79 ºC). (The previous version - up to 2005 - can be seen here).
And then about the global data:
In the global mean, 2005 remains the warmest (as in the NCDC analysis). CRU has 1998 as the warmest year but there are differences in methodology, particularly concerning the Arctic (extrapolated in GISTEMP, not included in CRU) which is a big part of recent global warmth. No recent IPCC statements or conclusions are affected in the slightest.
And he sums up:
Sum total of this change? A couple of hundredths of degrees in the US rankings and no change in anything that could be considered climatically important (specifically long term trends).
And yet to Jack Kelly, it's enough to shake the foundations of climate science.

Let's fact check some more of Jack's column. I got some time. Here's Jack:
The United States is only 2 percent of the world's land mass. It's possible the rest of the world's been getting hotter in the last few years, even if the United States hasn't. But as Lorne Gunter of Canada's National Post noted, we only have surface temperature readings for half the world today. Prior to World War II, we had readings for less than a quarter of it.
So who is this Lorne Gunter? Is he an expert in some way?

He's a "right-of-centre" columnist from Alberta, Canada. The short column from which Kelly takes the above information is another skeptical view of the global climate change data. In that instance it's a four paragraph over-simplification of how temperature data has been collected by weather satellites.

But Kelly's finale is true to form. Here's the last two paragraphs:

As the GISS was quietly acknowledging its error, Newsweek magazine, with exquisitely bad timing, declared in an Aug. 13 cover story that the debate on global warming was over.

"The story was a wonderful read, marred only by its being fundamentally misleading," wrote Newsweek contributing editor Robert Samuelson in the following issue.

Again, this is the error about the US data that was not statistically significant nor does it affect the IPCC's conclusions in the slightest. Jack Kelly quotes Robert Samuelson as saying the story is "fundamentally misleading." But what part of the story? That the planet is warming up? That the debate on global warming is over?

Uh, no. Here's the Samuelson piece. Here's the article Samuelson is talking about. And here's the paragraph where Kelly found the phrase "fundamentally misleading."
If you missed NEWSWEEK's story, here's the gist. A "well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change." This "denial machine" has obstructed action against global warming and is still "running at full throttle." The story's thrust: discredit the "denial machine," and the country can start the serious business of fighting global warming. The story was a wonderful read, marred only by its being fundamentally misleading.
So what was "funamentally misleading" to Samuelson centered on the "denial machine" not about whether the debate is over. Here's an example:
...NEWSWEEK's "denial machine" is a peripheral and highly contrived story. NEWSWEEK implied, for example, that ExxonMobil used a think tank to pay academics to criticize global-warming science. Actually, this accusation was long ago discredited, and NEWSWEEK shouldn't have lent it respectability.
Samuelson spends more time writing that, whatever the truth, we probably can't do much about global anyway. And what, pray tell, does he say about the global warming "debate" itself?
Global warming has clearly occurred; the hard question is what to do about it.
Too bad Jack isn't reading this. It might stop him from making similar mistakes in the future.