We are the 99%

December 31, 2007

End of the Year Round Up

From the AP:
The second half of 2007 saw violence drop dramatically in Iraq, but the progress came at a high price: The year was the deadliest for the U.S. military since the 2003 invasion, with 899 troops killed
If I admit the first part that "2007 saw violence drop dramatically", how long will I be waiting to hear the cheerleaders of dubya's bloody war to admit the second, that 2007 "was the deadliest [year] for the U.S. military since the 2003 invasion"?

Any takers?

But it's not only the surge at play here:
Two critical shifts that boosted U.S.-led forces in 2007 _ a self-imposed cease-fire by a main Shiite militia and a grassroots Sunni revolt against extremists _ could still unravel unless serious unity efforts are made by the Iraqi government.
That's what General Petraeus was talking about when he said things were "reversible" in Iraq.

Meanwhile Privacy International, a human rights group based in London and formed as a watchdog on privacy invasions by governments and corporations released a report calling the US an "endemic survillance society."

Happy New Year!

December 30, 2007

Jack Kelly Sunday

Let's just dive in head-first, shall we?

Did you know we're winning the war in Iraq? That's what Jack Kelly says in this week's column. This is what he said:
Back in 2006, when we were perceived to be losing it, the war in Iraq was voted the top news story in the AP's annual poll. But now that we're winning, the war in Iraq has fallen to third in the AP poll for 2007, behind the massacre at Virginia Tech last April and the mortgage crisis. [emphasis added]
And General Petraeus did it.

In all of American history, only a handful of generals -- Grant and Sherman in the Civil War, MacArthur with the Inchon landing in the Korean War -- have turned a war around in so short a time as has Gen. David Petraeus. And no one has done it with so few casualties, or so little civilian "collateral damage."

What has happened in Iraq since the troop surge began about this time last year is a tribute to the kindness and the humanity as well as to the courage and skill of U.S. soldiers and Marines. And to the genius and leadership of David Petraeus. The surge strategy was mostly his idea, and he's implemented it brilliantly. [emphasis added]

So Jack's on the record with this. Ok fine. Taking a closer look at who he quotes (and why) we can see that Jack isn't as careful with his writing as he probably should be. Take his first quotation:

Radical Islamists are driving Christians from the Middle East, said Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute.

"From Morocco to the Persian Gulf, we are seeing the rapid erosion of Christian populations, thought to now number no more than 15 million," Ms. Shea wrote in National Review. "The extinction of these ancient church communities will lead to ever more extremism within the region and polarization from the non-Muslim world."

He follows that immediately with this:

There's one Middle Eastern country where the reverse is happening. Thousands of people attended Christmas services in Baghdad this year. Most of the worshippers were, of course, Christians. But in the pews with them were prominent Muslim clerics, both Sunni and Shia.

You'd think, just as I did, that the third paragraph is somehow connected to the quotation of the first and second, right? The information found in the third is actually from another (unsourced by Jack, by the way) article from the Scotman.

More about that in a little bit.

I want to point out that what Shea writes a little later in her article at the National Review Online actually contradicts Jack's thesis. Here's what she writes:

Over half of Iraq’s one million Christians have fled since a coordinated bombing of their churches in August 2004 was followed by sustained violence against them. A Catholic Chaldean bishop raised the possibility last month that we may now be witnessing “the end of Christianity in Iraq.” Anglican Canon Andrew White, who leads a Baghdad ecumenical congregation, agrees: “All of my leadership were originally taken and killed — all dead,” he asserted in November.

Iraq’s Christian community, which dates from the Apostle Thomas, is not simply caught in the cross hairs of a sectarian civil war between Shiites and Sunnis. It is targeted for its non-Muslim faith — a reality U.S. policy fails to acknowledge. An extremist Sunni fatwa issued to Christians this year in a Baghdad neighborhood could not be clearer: “If you do not leave your home, your blood will be spilled. You and your family will be killed.'”

The end of Christianity in Iraq - a phrase left unmentioned by Jack Kelly who wants us to believe that the success of the surge has brought Christians back to Iraq.

So where did J-Kel get the part about Christians returning to Baghdad for Christmas?

Here - take a look at the rest of that article:

As the suicide bombers struck to the north, thousands of Iraqi Christians picked their way through checkpoints and streets lined with concrete blast walls in Baghdad on their way to packed churches for Christmas Mass.

The country's small Christian community took advantage of lower violence in recent days to turn out in numbers unthinkable a year ago.

And:

The pews were almost full and still more people streamed in. Outside, police armed with automatic rifles manned a checkpoint at the corner of the narrow street, searching every passing car for possible bombs.

Christians have often been the target of attacks by Islamic extremists in Iraq, forcing tens of thousands to flee. Many of those who stayed were isolated in neighbourhoods protected by barricades and checkpoints.

So it's not, as Jack Kelly informed us, that Christians were streaming back into Iraq because of the surge, it's that the security brought by the surge has allowed those who didn't flee some new level of protection.

But what happens when the surge subsides?

Mean while, back in the real world:

In a message to his troops, [General David Petraeus] wrote: "A year ago, Iraq was racked by horrific violence and on the brink of civil war.

"Now, levels of violence and civilian and military casualties are significantly reduced and hope has been rekindled in Iraqi communities. To be sure, the progress is reversible and there is much more to be done."

And something for Jack Kelly to chew on:
Although the security situation has improved this year, U.S. commanders have been careful not to declare victory after years in which their statements were often seen as overly optimistic.
But didn't Jack Kelly say we were winning? Why are those US Commanders such defeatists?

Because maybe things have gotten somewhat better, but they're still fragile, reversable and on the whole, still not so good:

Figures supplied at the news conference, however, showed that the number of suicide car bomb and suicide vest attacks is starting to creep up again after reaching a low in October.

Two suicide bomb attacks on U.S.-backed neighbourhood patrols killed at least 33 people in the northern city of Baiji and in the city of Baquba on Christmas Day. Ten people were killed in a car bomb blast in central Baghdad on Friday.

War is over (if you want it)

December 28, 2007

We've been remiss!

Two blogs that we've been meaning to add to our blogroll:

Reform Pittsburgh Now
City Councilman Bill Peduto's blog. We understand that he will be posting a special three-part series on the budget and the five year trend starting next week.

Teacher. Wordsmith. Madman.
Not only a great read, but as Chad's also one of those Carbolic guys, we have to blogroll him as we understand that as a fellow Pgh blogger we are under some sort of contractual agreement to help them in their efforts towards world domination of all media.
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A thought


Benazir Bhutto
1953- 2007

While much can (and will) be said pro and con about Benazir Bhutto, it is hard to imagine many of our own candidates for president being willing to risk their own very lives for democracy. And, it is completely impossible to imagine the current residents of the White House doing so.

(Most crass use of Bhutto's death by a candidate for president so far: Huckabee's warning to watch out for "any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country" to demonstrate his new found religion on border security and illegal immigrants.)
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Pretty on the inside

We have no idea what Mr. Norman is talking about. We here at 2pj believe we are beautiful on the outside as well as inside. Take a look for yourselves at the real 2pj:


(Good Lord! We look way too much like David Crosby!
This means that are critics are correct:
We are commie, librul, pinko hippies!)
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Uh, Thanks. I guess.

Check out Tony Norman's column today. He wrote a column in response to Pittsburgh Magazine's yearly "25 Most Beautiful People" list.

Imagine my outrage when I read:
David DeAngelo and Maria Lupinacci are co-founders of "2 Political Junkies," one of the most popular political blogs in town. David is no Adonis, but he and Maria do have "beautiful minds."
Did I read that right?? "No Adonis"?? I was shocked SHOCKED when I saw that.

And here's why. Here's a very recent picture of me. I took it this morning, in fact, with the camera on my phone:

Anyone (ANYONE!) who knows me knows that I look exactly like that! Full head of hair, ripped muscles, not an ounce of body-fat. Yep that's dayvoe perfectly.

So where does Tony "I have a column at the P-G and so I can get to make up lies about local bloggers" Norman get off saying I'm "no Adonis"??

Tony, there's gonna be such a nasty letter to the editor on this one. I promise you that, my friend! I promise you that.

:-)

December 27, 2007

Talking to themselves

I am easily amused, but as easily amused as I am, I do not even come close to being as easily amused as Ron Paul supporters are over talking to themselves.

Back in August I wrote a post entitled "Ron Paul Sucks."

In October, I noted that my post came up fourth whenever anyone googled "Ron Paul sucks."

Well, it now comes up first and the comments to that post number nearly 100. I wouldn't know this except that I see google searches for "Ron Paul sucks" coming up multiple times each day on 2pj's stat counter.

It seems that Paul's acolytes have nothing better to do than to google "Ron Paul sucks" and try to engage in a conversation that I stopped responding to months ago.

At least, one can hope, it keeps them off the streets.
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3900

From the AP:

As of Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007, at least 3,900 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes eight military civilians. At least 3,173 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is four higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Wednesday at 10 a.m. EST.

Submitted without comment.

Checkin' in on the Rick-ster

As some of you already know, former Senator Rick Santorum writes a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Last week, Lil Ricky chimed in on Mitt Romney's so-called "Religion Speech."

Because it's the Rick-ster, there are a few choice morsels for our reading pleasure. He begins:

What role should religion play in the public square? How did my own Roman Catholicism shape my work as a senator? Such questions were never far from my mind while I served in Congress. So, when Mitt Romney gave his "religion speech," I listened not as a political analyst, but as someone who wrestled with this subject for more than a decade.

Romney's speech was thoughtful and courageous. Unlike John F. Kennedy in 1960, he didn't cop out and say his faith does not matter. Romney gave an impressive defense of the believer's right to be engaged in politics. He also exposed the danger in secularist attempts to drive religion from our public life.

Didja see the nasty slap at JFK? Here's JFK's speech. I tried to find where JFK "copped out and said his faith doesn't matter" but I couldn't. I did find this:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

I wonder how all this intersects with the Palm Sunday Compromise. But I digress. Here's another ponderable:

At one point, though, [Romney] opted for prose over accuracy by saying "freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." Sociologist Os Guinness said it better, that "freedom requires virtue, virtue requires religion, and religion requires freedom."

Virtue - a person's ability to control his desires and order his actions according to the Golden Rule - makes freedom and democracy possible. For most, virtue is derived from religion, but that hardly means a man without religion cannot reason his way to virtue. Witness the ancient Greeks.

I find that last part curious. The ancient Greeks, thus spake Rick, were able to reason their way to virtue. These Greeks?


It's an image of two (male) athletes about to have sex while another man watches.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that the ancient Greeks lacked virtue or that homosexuality is in anyway a sign of the lack of virtue. But for Senator Santorum who is so widely quoted as saying:

Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality —

To now be using the ancient Greeks to support his idea of "virtue" is curious.

But Rick does get in a few licks on Mitt himself. Take a look:

Would the potential attraction to Mormonism by simply having a Mormon in the White House threaten traditional Christianity by leading more Americans to a church that some Christians believe misleadingly calls itself Christian, is an active missionary church, and a dangerous cult?

Let's parse. To Rick, Mormonism isn't "traditional Christianity." He also dutifully points out that "some Christians" believe the church misleads when it calls itself Christian - the implication, of course, that it's not. He also puts the phrase "dangerous cult" into the mouths of those same Christians. Rick Santorum continues:

How does a candidate possibly address such concerns?

Assume for the sake of argument that there are valid considerations. Shouldn't we look at everything about the candidate, including positions on the issues that could have even a more dramatic impact on Christianity than his personal faith? What about the candidate's willingness to confront the threat of radical Islam's war against Christianity, or the current efforts to undermine our Judeo-Christian culture and even our religious freedom? Like most voters, my faith matters more than politics, but we are electing someone to the most important political position in the world. I'm more concerned about losing our children to jihadis or a materialistic culture than losing them to Mormonism.

I admire President Bush's religious commitment, but I've never been tempted to become a Methodist. Kennedy's election didn't produce a surge of converts to Catholicism in the 1960s. A Mormon in the White House? Christianity has survived far tougher tests over the last 2,000 years.

Faith still matters in America. Mitt Romney showed it matters to him, too. He should be a viable choice for voters whose faith matters to them.

One last thing: Rick thinks that a Mormon in the White House would be a "test" for Christianity?

With friends like that...

I have a question.

While we see that "UPMC drops tax credit bid" in exchange for its commitment to the Pittsburgh Promise and that they will continue contributing to the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund, I don't see where they state outright that they wouldn't decide to renege on promised Promise funds on their own if they ever end up having to pay taxes.

Did I miss that?

UPDATE: Bob Mayo has pointed me to the answer to my question. His post this morning is full of links including this one which is UPMC's own press release where it states quite clearly that in the event that UPMC is ever taxed, they will give themselves the option to reduce their promised Promise:
“While UPMC will continue to welcome any supportive resolutions from the City Council, none are necessary for our commitment to the Pittsburgh Promise to go forward,” said UPMC general counsel Robert Cindrich. “As has been reported, UPMC’s governing agreement with the Pittsburgh Foundation provides that in the unlikely event of future state legislation that would require UPMC to pay taxes to the City of Pittsburgh and/or the School District, UPMC has the option of taking a dollar for dollar reduction to its payment to the Promise. We believe that it is more important to move forward with the program than to worry about a hypothetical situation, which is highly unlikely to arise,” he added. [Emphasis added]
Thanks, Mr. Mayo!

So in other words, everything that was said by Charlie Robert Cindrich, chief legal counsel to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, in the contentious City Council meeting still stands: it's a gift with many strings. And, as either Shields or Peduto noted in that meeting, there was never a need for an actual written side agreement by the city, UPMC could always simply say that they would opt out if they wanted for whatever reason.

Of course doing it that way puts the onus on them instead of making it a law that they are merely following. Thus, Lil Mayor Luke Ravenstahl F'd up once again by making a big issue out of it by trying to ram it down Council's throats.

At least this time Lukey's latest cockup hurt his corporate masters instead of the public at large. Perhaps UPMC will think twice about their next celebrity golf gift for Lukey . . . Nah!
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Science, Constitution and Pastafarianism Triumph in Polk County, FL


From davidkc at Daily Kos:
Efforts were afoot recently on the Polk County School Board (in the Tampa, FL area) to begin teaching the "concept" of intelligent design in science classes as an alternative to evolution, at a time when new state standards mentioning evolution by name for the first time are under consideration. It appeared that this bonehead move had the support of a majority of the school board, but that was before the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster arrived and shamed the school board into backing down.

[snip]

If you aren't familiar with the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it asserts that an omnipotent, airborne clump of spaghetti intelligently designed all life with the touch of its "noodly appendage," and that He appears in "full pirate regalia." The Pastafarians, as the Church's believers call themselves, first came to national attention in 2005, when the Church's leader, twentysomething Bobby Henderson, wrote an open letter to the Kansas Board of Education when the evolution flap was going on there, insisting that students also be taught about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. (You can read more about the Church in this recent Wired Magazine article).

The Pastafarians appear to have grown in numbers quite a bit since 2005, and soon after the Ledger story appeared, Polk school board members were deluged with e-mails demanding that Flying Spaghetti Monsterism's version of intelligent design be taught in the classrooms alongside evolution and the "alternative" ID theory.
Full story here.


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December 26, 2007

Why didn't Lincoln think of that?

If only he could have had Ron Paul to help him:


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HELP!

Seriously: Help! I listened to the whole thing and now I need some help.

"Huckabee will take terrorists down
And fight to keep the right to life around
Illegal immigrants stay on your ground
Won't you please vote Huckabee?"


Actually, I would have expected something like this to have come from the Ron Paulites.

(h/t to Atrios.)
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December 23, 2007

Mitt Romney Lies: An Update

Much has happened since I posted this.

Mostly this article from The Politico about eyewitness accounts of Gov George Romney and the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King marching hand in hand in Grosse Pointe Michigan.

It even showed up as a comment on my original post.

Here's how the article at The Politico began:

Shirley Basore, 72, says she was sitting in the hairdresser’s chair in wealthy Grosse Pointe, Mich., back in 1963 when a rumpus started and she discovered that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and her governor, George Romney, were marching for civil rights — right past the window.

With the cape still around her neck, Basore went outside and joined the parade.

“They were hand in hand,” recalled Basore, a former high-school English teacher. “They led the march. We all swung our hands, and they held their hands up above everybody else’s.”

Now no one is accusing Gov George Romney of not possessing a solid record on Civil Rights in the 60s. He marched in important marches, he attended important rallies, he was at Dr King's funeral. The question here is about Gov Mitt Romney's honesty (and the honesty of his campaign). He initially said, remember, that he saw his father march with Dr King. There are two statements of fact in play here:
  1. that the elder Romney marched with Dr King and
  2. the younger Romney saw it.
If the two never marched together, then the younger Romney could not have seen it happen. Which brings us back to the eyewitness accounts of the march in June of 1963.

There's been some fact-checking done by the Washington Post:

There is no dispute that George Romney supported the Civil Rights movement while governor of Michigan. When King came to Detroit in June 1963 for a civil rights march, Romney issued a proclamation supporting the event. According to accounts in the Detroit Free Press and The New York Times, he sent two representatives to the march on his behalf, which took place on Sunday, June 23. He told the Free Press that he avoided public appearances on the Sabbath because of his Mormon religion.

Romney did show up at a smaller march the following Saturday in the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb of Michigan to protest housing discrimination. But contemporaneous news reports show that King had left the Michigan area by then, and was traveling in the Northeast. On Friday, June 28, he was in Suffolk, VA, according to an Associated Press report published in the Washington Post. On Saturday, June 29, he addressed an AFL-CIO meeting at Rutgers University in New Jersey, according to the Chicago Tribune. (Cited by the Boston Phoenix here.) He spent the following day in Brooklyn, arriving by car in Harlem on Sunday evening, according to the New York Times.

The piece above also said that AFTER news reports challenged Romney's repeated accounts of his father marching with King, it was his campaign that put the reporter from the Politico in touch with the eyewitnesses. Something the Boston Phoenix has a little problem with:
Two women contacted the Mitt Romney campaign this week, offering their memories of seeing Romney's father march with Martin Luther King Jr., in Grosse Point Michigan in 1963. Campaign officials were well aware that the women were mistaken. Yet, they directed those women to tell their stories to a Politico reporter. The motives and memories of the two women are unknown and irrelevant; the motives of the campaign, however, were obvious -- to spread information they knew to be untrue, for the good of the candidate.
They restate things:

A King researcher editing his letters from that time has stated definitively that the two men never marched together; Michigan and Grosse Pointe historians have stated definitively that King was not at the 1963 Grosse Pointe march; Michigan civil-rights participants of the time have concurred; so have those who worked for George Romney at the time.

All of this evidence is important to present to the general public, but it is unnecessary for the Romney campaign -- it has been clear for some time that they know perfectly well that the two men never marched together.

Bear in mind that the Romney team has a substantial research team (and vast resources for outsourcing more). Bear in mind that the campaign has compiled vast documentation about the candidate's father, particularly his civil-rights activities, long before the Phoenix posed the question earlier this week. Bear in mind that the campaign has direct access to George Romney's materials and documents, his family members, his friends, his former staff, etc.

Believe me, they know the two men never marched together. This is an attempt to rewrite history. And even if it is a small rewriting, it is offensive.

The first misstatement of Romney might be excused because it might have been based on faulty memory, but to repeat the tale even when they know to be untrue as true is truly offensive.

But par for the course for contemporary Republican Presidential politics, I guess.

It also brings me to my first point. Al Gore was painted as a "serial exaggerator" (even though he wasn't) during the 2000 election cycle. Now that a Republican candidate for president has actually been caught in an offensive lie, what will the mainstream media do with this?

Jack Kelly Sunday

Has it really only been a week since this?

Sheesh, time flies don't it?

Anyway, there's not much to this week's column by our friend Jack Kelly. He's going through the various political algorithms facing the Republican candidates for President. Though it's a tangled trail. Let's take a look.

He starts off with Mike Huckabee (but note how he treats the former Arkansas Governor - it's very telling for the rest of the column).

The Huckaboom may turn out to be the best thing that's ever happened to former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The contest for the GOP nomination for president may well be determined by how frightened other Republicans are by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

What a subtle deflection! In two short paragraphs, he's succeeded in acknowledging Huckabee's near-frontrunner status AND foretold his possible political demise.

A few paragraphs later we learn from Jack that Huckabee's base is almost entirely the evangelical wing of God's Own Party (what, the evangenicals haven't already absorbed that entire metaphorical bird?). Then we get to what Jack really wants us to know:

His evangelical base has pushed Mike Huckabee to near the front because there are so many other candidates, and so little enthusiasm for them. But the Huckaboom is likely to fade as those charmed by his personality learn more about his policy views and his spotty record as governor.

If the Huckaboom fades, who benefits?

First, let's consider what happens if it doesn't. Most Republicans think Mr. Huckabee would be as bad a president as Jimmy Carter, for essentially the same reasons. So if Mr. Huckabee wins the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3 by a comfortable margin, there will be a rush to rally around the candidate deemed most likely to stop him. Since Rudy Giuliani has been sinking so fast in the polls you'd think he had an anvil on his chest, that figures to be either Mr. Romney or Arizona Sen. John McCain, whoever wins the New Hampshire primary Jan 8.

See? Jack's no fan of Mike Huckabee. He goes through a few scenarios when he settles on who he really likes.

There is another plausible scenario. Suppose Mike Huckabee wins, narrowly, in Iowa, with former Sen. Fred Thompson a close third. Mr. McCain goes on to win, narrowly, in New Hampshire. Mr. Huckabee is alive, but now seems very unlikely to be the nominee. Mr. Romney is on life support, but not dead, because his defeats were so narrow, and his wallet is so big. Mr. McCain is revived, but there is no rush to him because fear of Mr. Huckabee ultimately winning the nomination has diminished. And then there is Fred.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson has been written off because his campaign to date has been, to put it kindly, lackluster. But his political obituary may be as premature as Mr. McCain's.

But all is not lost:

In a campaign marked more by who voters are against than by who they are for, Fred Thompson is a safe choice. His views -- which he articulates well -- offend none of the core constituencies in the GOP. The more Mitt and Huck fight, the better he looks to Iowa voters.

If Mike Huckabee's been the hare in this race, Fred Thompson is the tortoise. In Aesop's fable, it was the tortoise who eventually won.

We'll see if Jack Kelly's political acumen is as sharp as his national security analyses.

Found this on youtube. Hope you like it, Jack!

December 21, 2007

Mitt Romney Lies

In 2000 we were peppered with tall tales of Vice-President Al Gore's tall tales.

And he got pounded for (at best) "stretching the truth" when it was said he claimed to have invented the Internet claimed to have been the model for Oliver Barrett in the novel Love Story.

Too bad he never claimed to have "invented" the Internet, only claimed to have pushed for it early on in Congress (he could have been a little clearer, though). And in fact he was the model (actually one of two models) for Oliver Barrett. And who said so? Eric Segal, the author of the novel.

I wonder, now, what the main stream media will make of a Republican who actually did stretch the truth (i.e. LIE)?

I turn now to Governor Mitt Romney's current lie: that he "saw" his father march with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.

The story starts up in Boston (or BAH-sten, as the locals up-ere would say):

In the most-watched speech of his political career, speaking on “Faith in America” at College Station, Texas, earlier this month, Mitt Romney evoked the strongest of all symbolic claims to civil-rights credentials: “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.”

He has repeated the claim several times recently, most prominently to Tim Russert on Meet the Press . But, while the late George W. Romney, a four-term governor of Michigan, can lay claim to a strong record on civil rights, the Phoenix can find no evidence that the senior Romney actually marched with King, nor anything in the public record suggesting that he ever claimed to do so.

Nor did Mitt Romney ever previously claim that this took place, until long after his father passed away in 1995 — not even when defending accusations of the Mormon church’s discriminatory past during his 1994 Senate campaign.

What discriminatory past? I think that has to be addressed first. Here's Lawrence O'Donnell from the HuffingtonPost:

The pundits had no idea how deliberately misleading Romney's speech was. They loved the bit about Romney's father marching with Martin Luther King. None of them knew that if at the end of the march with George Romney, Martin Luther King was so taken with Mormonism that he wanted to convert and become a Mormon priest, George Romney would have had to tell him that they don't allow black priests. George Romney might also have had to explain to the Reverend King that Mormons believe black people have black skin because they turned away from God.

I give you the words of the holy Book of Mormon:

"And I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark and loathsome and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations."

Brigham Young, the most revered president of the Mormon Church, who marched his people all the way to the Utah territory because he so vehemently hated the laws of the United States, taught that sex with black people would kill white people. Instantly.

Brigham Young:

"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so."

O'Donnell goes on:
It took the Mormons ten years after Martin Luther King was killed--ten years--to decide to allow black men to be priests.
The faith of Romney's fathers.

Anyway, back to Romney seeing his father march with Martin Luther King. This is what he said to Russert:
I'm very proud of my faith, and it's the faith of my fathers, and I certainly believe that it is a, a faith--well, it's true and I love my faith. And I'm not going to distance myself in any way from my faith. But you can see what I believed and what my family believed by looking at, at our lives. My dad marched with Martin Luther King. [emphasis in original]
In all fairness, I should add that Romney does say that he was anxious to see a change in his church and that he wept when he heard that his church was changing in regards to race. Didn't say it was ten years later, though.

So two statements: "I saw my father march with Dr Martin Luther King." and "My dad marched with Martin Luther King."

Now are those statements true? Turns out that's a NO. Not only is there no evidence to show that Romney's father, George Romney - who had a solid reputation, strong record for Civil Rights, never marched with King.

When initially asked, the campaign said the march occurred in Grosse Point, Michigan. Too bad there was never a march by Dr. King in Grosse Point. And Romney never marched their either. King did deliver a speech at Grosse Point High school, on March 14 1968.

If that was the event, then Mitt Romney could not have seen it, as he was doing missionary work in Europe for his church.

So, no march attended by both King and the elder Romney. And Romney himself was away for 2 1/2 years (from the last half of 1966 to the end of 1968 - geez, he missed all the good stuff!).

The campaign, of course, is back-pedalling furiously:
"He was speaking figuratively, not literally," Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesman for the Romney campaign, said of the candidate.
Right.

And then there's this update at the Phoenix:

A spokesperson for Mitt Romney now tells the Phoenix that George W. Romney and Martin Luther King Jr. marched together in June, 1963 -- although possibly not on the same day or in the same city.

Romney, according to one piece of written source material provided by the campaign, made a “surprise” appearance at a small march in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, in late June -- several days after King led a much larger march in Detroit.

Romney spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom suggests that these two were part of the same “series” of events, co-sponsored by King and the NAACP, and is thus consistent with Romney’s claim that “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.”

“The record is convincing and clear – George Romney marched with Martin Luther King and other civil rights demonstrators,” Fehrnstrom wrote in an email.

Fehrnstrom had originally told the Phoenix that the two men marched together in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, either in June 1963 or March 1968, a claim the Phoenix called into question earlier today. An additional source, William LeFevre of the Reuther Library at Wayne State University, who is in charge of the papers of the Grosse Pointe Civil Liberties Association, has since confirmed to the Phoenix that George Romney was not at the 1968 event, and that King was not at the 1963 event.
Fehrnstrom now says that the event in question was King’s “Freedom March” in Detroit on June 23, 1963.

He provides one reference, a 1972 book about Detroit, which mentions that Michigan’s then-governor George Romney “was among the prominent whites marching with Reverend King” in the Freedom March (which the book erroneously says took place on July 23).

However, numerous contemporaneous and historical accounts say that Romney did not participate in the Detroit Freedom March, because it was held on the Sabbath. The New York Times, for example, wrote the next day that “Gov. George Romney, who is Mormon and does not make public appearances on Sundays, issued a special proclamation.”

So I guess it depends on the meaning of "saw" is.

December 20, 2007

Congratulations, Maria!

I was sitting at my desk at work yesterday - listening as I usually do at that time of the afternoon to Fred Honsberger.

Fred was mid-rant about the UPMC gift quid pro quo, when I heard him start to talk about this blog. Yes, the very blog you're reading right now: 2 Political Junkies.

He said that while he disagrees with most of what's posted here, every now and then he's surprised when he finds some area of agreement. He added that we're "good people."

Thanks, Fred. Yer gonna make me blush.

Anyway he then proceeded to read this blog posting by Maria, the OPJ.

Congratulations, Maria - you've been endorsed (yet again) by the Honzman himself.

And thanks for the shoutout, Fred. Your listeners are probably not frequent readers of this blog. If we can usher just one into the reality-based community, it'll all be worth it.

:-)

December 19, 2007

News From Congress.

The House of Representatives yesterday passed the Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act of 2007.

The text of the bill can be found here. It's pretty safe to assume the bill's support in the House is bipartisan as it passed unanimously (405-0).

The similar Senate bill (S.2400) was introduced a few days ago by Republican Jeff Sessions. On Friday, it passed by unanimous consent.

There still is, however, work to be done to reconcile the two bills. From the Army Times:

On Friday, the Senate passed its bill, the Wounded Warrior Bonus Equity Act, which promises retroactive payments to anyone who did not get his full bonus since Sept. 12, 2001, because a combat-related disability cut short his service. The Senate bill, S 2400, promises full payment of any unpaid portions of bonuses and special pays within 90 days of leaving active duty.

The House of Representatives was prepared Tuesday to pass a slightly different bill, one that does not allow any retroactive payments. The House bill allows full bonus payments in the future to anyone with a disability unable to continue military service as long as his injury was not his own fault. Payments are mandatory for combat-related disabilities and are allowed at the discretion of each service in other cases when a service commitment tied to a bonus is not met. Additionally, the bill, HR 3793, says that in cases where a service member is killed in action, the government is required to pay the full amount of unpaid bonuses or special pays to survivors or the deceased service member’s estate.

They're trying to get one bill passed through both houses:

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is chief sponsor of the Senate bill, and Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., is chief sponsor of the House bill. Press aides to both lawmakers said there are efforts underway to get a compromise bill passed before Congress goes home at the end of the week, but time is short. Congressional leaders are hoping to wrap up key bills by Wednesday night or early Thursday, and intend for Congress to take a break until mid-January.

I'll keep you posted.

More Strings!

It seems that each day brings a new revelation in the demands being made by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center from the city in return for their gift donation bribe to The Pittsburgh Promise for college scholarships for city public school grads.

We first learned this week that UPMC wanted a tax credit equal to any monies that they might give to The Pittsburgh Promise.

Today, it was revealed that they will stop making their $1.5 million annual payment to the city for general government.

Neither of these details were revealed in their original splashy press conference announcing their "gift" at the beginning of the month.

Now, 2 Political Junkies has learned that there are even more demands in the rider to UPMC's agreement and we present them exclusively to our readers. These include:
  • Any and all parking tickets incurred by UPMC vehicles shall be paid out of promised Pittsburgh Promise funds.

  • All City of Pittsburgh Library overdue book fines incurred by UPMC employees shall be paid out of promised Pittsburgh Promise funds.

  • The City of Pittsburgh will supply complimentary beverages and lite snacks to UPMC executives. (All brown M&Ms must be removed!)

  • At Thanksgiving, UPMC shall always be declared the winner of any wishbone pulling contest no matter the size of their respective piece.

  • 12 de-thorned roses shall be delivered daily to the feet of UPMC President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey A. Romoff.

  • Any meeting between UPMC and the city shall take place in an all white room (White flowers. White tablecloths. White curtains. White candles. White couches. Low watt light bulbs.) Coffee to be stirred counterclockwise and 25 cases of Kabbalah water provided.

  • Any UPMC executive may refer to any elected city official as "Charlie" in a public meeting without being called out for being an arrogant, disrespectful dick.
  • Pittsburgh City Council members Shields, Peduto and Harris are expected to bulk at the additional requests while Councilman Jim Motznik has been seen helping Mayor Luke Ravenstahl sort through an industrial size bag of M&Ms removing offensively colored candies.

    When contacted by 2pj about the other clauses in UPMC's rider, city Chief of Staff Yarone Zober said, "It would be unfortunate if the actions of a few council members have the effect of preventing the class of 2008, those [2,000] seniors, from participating in the Pittsburgh Promise . . . Hey, guys! How are those M&Ms coming?"


    .

    December 18, 2007

    UPMC: The Grinch Who Stole Pittsburgh Promise


    "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."
    - Robert Cindrich, chief legal counsel to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
    Yeah, UPMC's legal rep actually said that to Pittsburgh City Council. Of course, it's looking like the gift horse is more of the Trojan variety, but it was better than what the Mayor's Office had to say at the Council meeting which was exactly nothing. No one bothered to show up from the Ravenstahl Administration today (after asking Council to fast track the bill).

    City Solicitor George Specter was there as the Administration's counsel...or is that as Council's counsel...or...who the hell knows! Council President Doug Shields tried to nail Specter down on that point, as well as who exactly negotiated the UPMC Strings Attached Promise and when, but he didn't get any further with that inquiry either.

    In addition to Councilman Bill Peduto's plea that Council cannot give a special right to an individual, corporation or non profit, lots of words were thrown around from various Council members describing the UPMC Strings Attached Promise. They included:
    "backroom deal"

    "side agreement"

    "strings attached"

    "pig in a poke"

    "Trojan horse"

    "spin"

    IMHO, they all applied only too well.

    The main point seems to be that UPMC wants to say that their giving a gift to another non profit (The Pittsburgh Promise) is the same thing as their paying taxes to the city. Or, to look at it from another angle, UPMC wants a right that no one else has: to designate exactly what their (possible future) taxes would pay for. Still another way to look at it is that UPMC is trying to stick the city with the bill for their "gift."

    UPMC kept saying that they didn't want to pay twice -- as if a "gift" to a charity should somehow excuse them from paying local taxes. It doesn't for anyone else of course. Cindrich kept saying that they were not asking for a tax credit or deduction. However, he made it clear that if they were ever taxed, they would deduct the amount that they would have to pay in taxes from the amount that they had promised to The Promise.

    Now, UPMC can reap much benefits from being able to say that they donated money to pay for secondary education for Pittsburgh public school kids -- makes a nice commercial, no? Compare that to simply having an extremely profitable behemoth merely paying their fair share to the city's tax base. Where's the glory in that?

    Come to think of it though, they may be on to something. Can I give my federal tax bill payment to moveon.org instead of to Bush's War on Iraq? OK, OK, better not to even think about messing with the IRS. How about starting small? I demand that none of my city tax payments be used towards paying Clowncilman (and Luke's Best Boy) Jim Motznik's salary. I could live with that!

    (Thankfully, the bill will be held until after a Public Hearing.)

    .

    In Luke's Pittsburgh


    In Lil Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Pittsburgh, the corporation is always right and the citizens can be ignored (except when it's time to ask for their votes).

    We have two recent examples of this.

    The first is Luke acting like The One Hill CBA Coalition are little more than con artists trying to scam the city for cash. It's fine to abruptly walk out on them as they're speaking (if only they had given Lukey a free private jet ride and all-night party in NYC he might have taken them seriously as he does the Pittsburgh Penguins).

    The second is Luke's Pittsburgh Promise (talk about a scam). Ravenstahl first announced the program to provide free secondary education to the city's public school residents one year ago and for a year the only funds for the "promise" was $10,000 from Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.

    Then at the beginning of this month, Ravenstahl announced jointly with UPMC that the local healthcare giant would fund a $100 million commitment to The Pittsburgh Promise. Both Luke and UPMC garnered much good will from the gesture.

    But then comes the fine print: the monies are matching funds, not seed money. And, now we learn that the very profitable, nonprofit UPMC wants tax credits for their "donation" and Ravenstahl is ready to go to bat for them on that point.

    If only Jane/John Q. Public could take Lukey golfing with celebrities for $9,000 a pop perhaps they too could have Luke looking out for their interests.

    The Moral of This Story:

    At this time of year, when you're trying to finish crossing off names on your gift list, you'd better not forget something for the Boy King Mayor or you'll be the one left with a lump of coal.

    .

    From The Army Times

    Via Editor and Publisher, I found this troubling article from the Army Times.

    If this article is any indication, things are definitely not going well for the troops in Iraq. It's a frightening portrait of some of the other costs of dubya's illegal war.

    It's about Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry. Things had been getting rough for a while:
    When five soldiers with 2nd Platoon were trapped June 21 after a deep-buried roadside bomb flipped their Bradley upside-down, several men rushed to save the gunner, Spc. Daniel Agami, pinned beneath the 30-ton vehicle. But they could only watch — and listen to him scream — as he burned alive. The Bradley was far too heavy to lift, and the flames were too high to even get close. The four others died inside the vehicle. Second Platoon already had lost four of its 45 men since deploying to Adhamiya 11 months before. June 21 shattered them.
    Then in early July:

    But within days, he would lose five men, including a respected senior non-commissioned officer. Master Sgt. Jeffrey McKinney, Alpha Company’s first sergeant, was known as a family man and as a good leader because he was intelligent and could explain things well. But Staff Sgt. Jeremy Rausch of Charlie Company’s 1st Platoon, a good friend of McKinney’s, said McKinney told him he felt he was letting his men down in Adhamiya.

    “First Sergeant McKinney was kind of a perfectionist and this was bothering him very much,” Rausch said. On July 11, McKinney was ordered to lead his men on a foot patrol to clear the roads of IEDs. Everyone at Apache heard the call come in from Adhamiya, where Alpha Company had picked up the same streets Charlie had left. Charlie’s 1st Platoon had also remained behind, and Rausch said he would never forget the fear he heard in McKinney’s driver’s voice:

    “This is Apache seven delta,” McKinney’s driver said in a panicked voice over the radio. “Apache seven just shot himself. He just shot himself. Apache seven shot himself.”

    Rausch said there was no misunderstanding what had happened.

    According to Charlie Company soldiers, McKinney said, “I can’t take it anymore,” and fired a round. Then he pointed his M4 under his chin and killed himself in front of three of his men.

    Another casualty in dubya's war.

    Go read the rest.

    Senator Dodd Comments

    Yesterday, the OPJ posted her thanks to Senator Dodd for stopping the Senate FISA bill.

    Via atrios, I found Senator Dodd's thanks to everyone that supported him yesterday. Here it is:

    Senator Dodd.

    December 17, 2007

    FISA Bill Granting Telecoms Retroactive Immunity Pulled! Thank You Chris Dodd!

    From The Huffington Post:

    Dodd's Filibuster Threat Stalls Wiretap Bill

    Senator Chris Dodd won a temporary victory today after his threats of a filibuster forced Democratic leadership to push back consideration of a measure that would grant immunity to telecom companies that were complicit in warrantless surveillance.

    The measure was part of a greater bill to reorganize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Earlier on Monday, the Senate, agreed to address a bill that would have overhauled FISA, authorized the monitoring of people outside the United States, given secret courts the power to approve aspects of surveillance, and granted telecom companies retroactive immunity for past cooperation.

    But the threat of Dodd's filibuster, aimed primarily at the latter measure, persuaded Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, to table the act until January. A compromise on the immunity will ostensibly be worked out in the interim period.

    [snip]

    While he never technically conducted a filibuster, according to aides, Dodd left the floor only once, to address a press gathering. He did, on occasion cede time to his Democratic colleagues. But even then, they say, he remained engaged in the debate.

    "Everyone who spoke on the floor said they were grateful for Dodd taking a stand," said a staffer to the Senator who asked not to be named. "They said if it weren't for him they wouldn't be having this much-needed debate."

    Dodd was the one Senator currently running for the White House who left the campaign trail to debate the Protect America Act, an absence he hinted at while on the Senate floor.
    Chris Dodd on Bush's threat of a veto:


    From Sen. Chris Dodd’s first speech on FISA today:
    For the last six years, our largest telecommunications companies have been spying on their own American customers.

    Secretly and without a warrant, they delivered to the federal government the private, domestic communications records of millions of Americans—records this administration has compiled into a database of enormous scale and scope.

    That decision betrayed millions of customers' trust. It was unwarranted—literally.
    What the telecoms did that Bush wants to cover-up by giving them blanket immunity:

    What's happening in Room 641A of 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco remains one of the most closely-held secrets in the U.S. government. According to a former AT&T employee who assisted two technicians cleared to work in the telecommunications complex on Folsom Street, 641A served as a vacuum cleaner for phone calls and e-mails of terrorism suspects, routing them to the National Security Agency.

    The claims made by the ex-employee, Mark Klein, are the basis for a class-action lawsuit against AT&T and affiliated telecoms for illegally harvesting information from U.S. citizens.

    [snip]

    Klein provided a detailed list of 16 communications networks and exchanges targeted in San Francisco, including MAE-West, a Verizon-owned Internet hub that is among the largest in the country. Klein also said "splitter cabinets" similar to the one on Folsom Street were installed in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

    [J. Scott] Marcus, the former FCC adviser, said in a legal declaration recently
    unsealed in the case that the operation described by Klein "is neither modest nor limited" and was far more extensive than needed if it was focused only on international communications or on tasks other than surveillance.

    "I conclude that AT&T has constructed an extensive -- and expensive -- collection
    of infrastructure that collectively has all the capability necessary to conduct large-scale covert gathering of [Internet protocol]-based communications information, not only for communications to overseas locations, but for purely domestic communications as well," said Marcus, a veteran computer network executive who worked at GTE, Genuity and other companies before joining the FCC.
    If you can, you might want to throw Dodd some $$$ --- he needs to stay in this race:!

    http://chrisdodd.com


    .


    UPMC Tax Break

    I see that the P-G has the story.

    As does the Burgh Report.

    Of course The Remarkable Rauterkus is in the story as well.

    For those who don't know here it is in a nutshell:
    Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today asked City Council to grant UPMC tax credits in the amount of money it donates to the Pittsburgh Promise, a program to give college grants to city high school students who meet minimum grade requirements.
    A sources close to city-council tells me that several council members were surprised to see legislation as they'd thought that the year's business had been finished. Imagine their colletive surprise when suddenly this is dropped in to their collective laps. They tell me that the administration (that would be Mayor Opie and friends) want to "fast track it" before the new year, when the new council members are sworn in.

    For your perusal, here's the legislation:

    Resolution authorizing the City of Pittsburgh (City”) to enter into an Agreement or Agreements with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (“UPMC”) to grant to UPMC tax credits equal to certain payments made by UPMC or its affiliates to the Pittsburgh Promise Foundation, if by legislation or Court decision, UPMC or its affiliates are made subject to the imposition of taxes by the City.

    WHEREAS, UPMC has entered into a Grant Agreement with the Pittsburgh Foundation under which UPMC will make gifts to the Pittsburgh Promise Foundation for the purpose of providing scholarships to residents of the School District of Pittsburgh as they are graduated from the public schools of the School District; (“UPMC”)and

    WHEREAS, the City recognizes and acknowledges the charitable status of UPMC and its affiliates; and

    WHEREAS, the City, UPMC and its affiliates recognize that in the future legislation or Court decisions could mandate or permit the imposition by the City of a tax or municipal service fee or payment in lieu of taxes..

    Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Pittsburgh as follows:

    1 The Mayor and appropriate officials of the City are hereby authorized to enter into an Agreement of Agreements with UPMC, in form and substance, subject to approval of the City Solicitor, to grant tax credits to UPMC or its affiliates in the event that legislation enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or final Court decisions mandated or authorized the City to impose any tax or municipal service fee or payment in lieu of taxes on UPMC or its affiliates, such credits to be equal to certain payments which may be made by UPMC to the Pittsburgh Promise Foundation, as may be more fully set forth in such Agreement or Agreements.

    2 Any ordinance of resolution inconsistent with this resolution, in whole or in part, is hereby repealed.

    I've also been informed that if 25 valid signatures can be delivered on a petition to City Council tomorrow before the meeting tomorrow at 10am, a public hearing can be scheduled for the legislation.

    A petition that looks like this:

    We, the undersigned below, petition the Council of the City, in accordance with Section 320 of the Home Rule Charter, for a public hearing on legislation introduced in Council on December 17, 2007 that would allow."

    The Mayor and appropriate officials of the City are hereby authorized to enter into an Agreement of Agreements with UPMC, in form and substance, subject to approval of the City Solicitor, to grant tax credits to UPMC or its affiliates in the event that legislation enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or final Court decisions mandated or authorized the City to impose any tax or municipal service fee or payment in lieu of taxes on UPMC or its affiliates, such credits to be equal to certain payments which may be made by UPMC to the Pittsburgh Promise Foundation, as may be more fully set forth in such Agreement or Agreements.

    I understand that in order to make a valid signature on this petition that I am a resident of the City of Pittsburgh and that I am a registered voter in the city of Pittsburgh .

    Name Address

    ___________________________________________________

    ___________________________________________________

    Just cut and paste, sign and send it to Mark Rauterkus. Or maybe he has a cleaner copy.

    The P-G Weighs In On Torture

    Here.

    Historians will look back on the Bush years as either the beginning of America's Dark Ages or its end.

    In conducting the war on terror, the administration of President Bush has not called upon "the better angels" of America's nature, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln. If anything, the nation has been encouraged to set aside previous moral convictions. Mr. Bush believes it makes more sense to mirror the ruthlessness of America's enemies than to honor the values that make us distinct from them.

    According to this moral logic, a tough enemy requires the use of even tougher interrogation techniques. As long as al-Qaida remains in the shadows, qualms are a luxury Americans can't afford, according to Mr. Bush. This is the kind of reasoning that has led to outrages against human dignity throughout history.

    We've also seen here (in the comments of various postings) the rather useless argument that goes something like:
    Well, since we haven't been attacked since 9/11 it follows that the President HAS protected us. And if that protection includes any "enhanced techniques" necessary to protect American lives, I say go for it! Let's Roll! Bring it on!
    First off, that argument assumes that there HAVE been attacks since 9/11 and that those attacks were in fact thwarted by this administration. Given the vast array of lies and deceptions spewed out by this administration since 9/11, how can we be sure that anything it says is correct?

    Wasn't this an al-Qaeda cell?

    The Associated Press is reporting that a federal jury in Miami has acquitted one defendant of charges of plotting to link up with al-Qaeda to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower.

    The jury, however, could not reach agreement on the other six defendants, and a mistrial was declared.

    Summed up:
    The AP says Bush administration had seized on the case to illustrate the dangers of homegrown terrorism and underscore the government’s post-Sept. 11 success in infiltrating and smashing terrorism plots in their earliest stages.
    Back to the P-G:

    Last week, the House of Representatives voted 222-199 to outlaw waterboarding by the CIA. The legislation rejects waterboarding as an interrogation tool. The majority of Democrats who voted for the ban are trying to impose the same rules on U.S. intelligence that govern the conduct of the Army.

    The bill also bans "techniques" that employ mock executions, attack dogs, sexual humiliation, starvation and the withholding of medical care. As if to remind everyone of his medieval bona fides, Mr. Bush has promised to veto the bill if it wins Senate approval.

    Recently, though Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) put a hold on the legislation. His reason?
    I think quite frankly applying the Army field manual to the CIA would be ill-advised and would destroy a program that I think is lawful and helps the country.
    If it helps the country, then why not let the Army do it? Or as Spencer Ackerman put it in that same article:
    So torture is counterproductive for the military but valuable for the CIA?
    Absurd.

    The P-G ends with a rhetorical question:
    We need a leader who will chart a new path. Can the United States reclaim its place as a beacon of moral behavior, or will it follow Mr. Bush into the Dark Ages?
    Only time will tell.

    Happy Monday.

    December 16, 2007

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    Now THIS is interesting.

    Some setup, Jack Kelly is described as a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade and usually, the column found on Sundays in the Post-Gazette is the same exact column found in the Toledo Blade the day before on Saturday. The upside for me is that I get to peek on Saturday at what I'll be blogging about on Sunday morning.

    There is a point to all this. A glance at the archives at each paper (P-G, The Blade) should give you a hint as to where I'm going.

    This weekend, there are two different columns. Today at the P-G there is a column about the most recent Republican debate in Iowa. J-Kel says it was dull (he quotes fellow Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer's description of it as "transcendingly and crushingly dull.") and then blames it all on the media. There's not much to blog about there except maybe this paragraph:
    I had thought it impossible to have a more biased or incompetently managed debate than the CNN-YouTube Republican debate last month, where a third of the questions CNN selected were from Democratic plants -- including a member of Hillary Clinton's Gay and Lesbian Task Force who CNN flew from California to Florida for the occasion -- and most of the rest were from fringe lunatics.
    Not really sure where Jack is getting his data, but if it's Michelle Malkin, then he's got some logical problems. All she's shown on that page is that some (let's assume for the sake of the argument that it IS a third) of the questioners are Democrats or at least supporters of one or more of the Democratic candidates. The verb "plant" was used but where is the evidence that those questioners were planted? None is presented to us.

    Ed Morrissey over at Captain's Quarters limits the "plants" to one (one!) questioner. By the way the RSCC called Captain's Quarters "five of the best-read national conservative bloggers" in an internet guide this year.
    CNN's main failure, and the only real "plant", was General Keith Kerr. They didn't just allow his question, they flew him to the debate, and then allowed him almost as much screen time as Duncan Hunter to make a speech.
    General Kerr, it was found, is on Senator Clinton's steering committee for LGBT issues. In an analysis of both youtube debates, the LATimes wrote:

    Retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, who is gay, had asked the candidates why gays and lesbians shouldn't be allowed to serve openly in the military. Kerr is a member of a steering committee for Clinton on gay and lesbian issues.

    Although the retired military man and Clinton's camp said the Democratic candidate had nothing to do with the question, CNN apologized. David Bohrman, executive producer of the debate, said the network wanted to avoid "gotcha" questions from clear Democratic partisans and would not have allowed the query if it had known of Kerr's ties to the Clinton campaign.

    Ok, fine. But how was he a plant?

    CNN officials did say that for both debates no attempt was made to determine the party affiliation of any of the questioners - they were just looking for lively questions.

    But I am getting off-topic. Yesterday's column in the Toledo Blade was prime Jack Kelly. Myth and misinformation wrapped up into one tasty propaganda enchilada. So much more fun to deconstruct Jack's spin on the NIE, so I think I'll work there instead.

    Heh-heh-heh.

    J-Kel begins:

    “BLOWBACK” is an intelligence term for adverse, unintended consequences of secret operations. The CIA first used it in a report on the 1953 operation that overthrew the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran.

    Some in the intelligence community have been working with liberal journalists and Democrats on Capitol Hill to embarrass President Bush and to stymie his foreign policy initiatives.

    The most successful of these covert operations was the Valerie Plame affair, in which White House officials were falsely blamed for “outing” a CIA undercover officer who was not in fact undercover. (It was then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who inadvertently disclosed Ms. Plame’s identity.)

    Oh, my. This will be fun.

    Ok, lets do this again. In documents filed in U.S District Court by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, we read:
    At the time of the initial unauthorized disclosure in the media of Ms. Wilson's employment relationship with the CIA 14 July 2003, Ms Wilson was a covert CIA employee for whom the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States.
    A few paragraphs later, after outlining the CIA's determination to declassify Plame's status, we read:

    This determination means that the CIA declassified and now publicly acknowledges the previously classified fact that Ms Wilson was a CIA employee from 1 January 2002 forward and the previously classified fact that she was a covert CIA employee during this period.

    She was covert so it follows that all the rest of it (White House officials being falsely accused and so on) is just bunk. Doesn't ANYONE fact-check Jack Kelly at the Toledo Blade either?

    We could spend all day writing about Jack's laughable spin defense of the outing of Valerie Plame (it's a CIA plot? REALLY??), but let's move on. Here's Jackie
    The most recent is the new National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and hasn’t resumed it. Michael Ledeen, a former consultant to the National Security Council, described the NIE as “policy advocacy masquerading as serious intelligence.”
    This has to be embarrassing for Jack. Only this Thursday at a Press Briefing with Dana Perino at the White House there was this interchange:

    Q So was that statement -- to draw from that that the President is fully confident in the information contained in the NIE?

    MS. PERINO: Look, the NIE -- the President accepted the results of the NIE

    And who was this "Michael Ledeen" person Jack Kelly was using as a source? Along with being a "former consultant" he's a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Intstitute and contributing editor of the National Review. So you know he'll be unbiased in his analysis.

    He's also been a long time cheerleader for Bush's war in Iraq. AND he's also dallied abit in some weird conspiracy theories. Take this from March of 2003. Ledeen was writing about the balance of power in a post-Soviet world. The US is left as a "hyperpower" unchallenged militarily across the globe and the French and Germans hate that. So the plan? Take a look at what Ledeen comes up with:

    No military operation could possibly defeat the United States, and no direct economic challenge could hope to succeed. That left politics and culture. And here there was a chance to turn America's vaunted openness at home and toleration abroad against the United States. So the French and the Germans struck a deal with radical Islam and with radical Arabs: You go after the United States, and we'll do everything we can to protect you, and we will do everything we can to weaken the Americans.

    The Franco-German strategy was based on using Arab and Islamic extremism and terrorism as the weapon of choice, and the United Nations as the straitjacket for blocking a decisive response from the United States.

    Yea, this is the guy you want to quote about world affairs.

    After running down his NIE arguments, Jack trots out the CIA tape-erasing scandal. True to form, he writes this:
    Abu Zubaydah and Abd Rahim al Nashiri allegedly were subjected to waterboarding, a technique which simulates drowning that the CIA calls a “harsh interrogation technique,” but which many in Congress call “torture.”
    Only "many in Congress"? Let's see just who else calls waterboarding "torture." Well, this guy, for one. Judge Evan Wallach write this in the Washington Post this past November:
    The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government -- whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community -- has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.
    Wallach brings up some clear examples:

    As a result of such accounts, a number of Japanese prison-camp officers and guards were convicted of torture that clearly violated the laws of war. They were not the only defendants convicted in such cases. As far back as the U.S. occupation of the Philippines after the 1898 Spanish-American War, U.S. soldiers were court-martialed for using the "water cure" to question Filipino guerrillas.

    More recently, waterboarding cases have appeared in U.S. district courts. One was a civil action brought by several Filipinos seeking damages against the estate of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. The plaintiffs claimed they had been subjected to torture, including water torture. The court awarded $766 million in damages, noting in its findings that "the plaintiffs experienced human rights violations including, but not limited to . . . the water cure, where a cloth was placed over the detainee's mouth and nose, and water producing a drowning sensation."

    And then there's this:
    In 1983, federal prosecutors charged a Texas sheriff and three of his deputies with violating prisoners' civil rights by forcing confessions. The complaint alleged that the officers conspired to "subject prisoners to a suffocating water torture ordeal in order to coerce confessions. This generally included the placement of a towel over the nose and mouth of the prisoner and the pouring of water in the towel until the prisoner began to move, jerk, or otherwise indicate that he was suffocating and/or drowning."

    The four defendants were convicted, and the sheriff was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
    Is there any more doubt? But to Jack, our Jack, it's only "many in Congress" call it torture.

    I could keep going, but I have to wonder WHY such a fact-deprived column was published in the Toledo Blade and yet NOT published in the Post-Gazette.

    Any readers who also work at the P-G are, as always, free to drop me a line on this. Confidentiality is assured.

    December 15, 2007

    Birthdays N@

    Today is my mom's birthday (Happy Birthday, mom!) and tomorrow is usually recognized as the birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven.

    See, he was baptized on the 17th of December (or so I am told. I wasn't there) and so it's been assumed that he was born on December 16th.

    As I have already wished my mom a Happy Birthday, let me do the same for Ludwig van.

    The piece is his Seventh Symphony (Opus 92) in A Major. It premiered (again so I am told. I wasn't there, either) on December 8th, 1813 at a charity concert for soldiers wounded at the Battle of Hanau.

    If you have the time, give a listen - especially the second movement, it starts about 11 minutes 20 seconds in. And for those of you who want to follow along with the score - enjoy.

    December 14, 2007

    George W. Bush favors naked men performing sexual acts on each other! (And, it's even better if dogs are involved!)

    From The Huffungton Post:

    The House approved an intelligence bill Thursday that would prohibit the CIA from using waterboarding, mock executions and other harsh interrogation methods.

    The 222-199 vote sent the measure to the Senate, which still must act before it can go to President Bush. The White House has threatened a veto.

    [snip]

    The administration particularly opposes restricting the CIA to interrogation methods approved by the military in 2006. That document prohibits forcing detainees to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; placing hoods or sacks over detainees' heads or duct tape over their eyes; beating, shocking, or burning detainees; threatening them with military dogs; exposing them to extreme heat or cold; conducting mock executions; depriving them of food, water, or medical care; and waterboarding.
    This bears repeating:

  • George W. Bush is in favor of forcing detainees to be naked.

  • George W. Bush is in favor of forcing detainees to perform sexual acts.
  • George W. Bush is in favor of forcing detainees to pose in a sexual manner.

  • George W. Bush is in favor of placing hoods or sacks over detainees' heads.

  • George W. Bush is in favor of placing duct tape over detainees' eyes.

  • George W. Bush is in favor of beating, shocking, or burning detainees.

  • George W. Bush is in favor of threatening detainees with military dogs,

  • George W. Bush is in favor of exposing detainees to extreme heat or cold.

  • George W. Bush is in favor of conducting mock executions.

  • George W. Bush is in favor of depriving detainees of food, water, or medical care.

  • George W. Bush is in favor of waterboarding.
  • There can be no mistake: The President of the United States is PRO TORTURE.

    Impeach the bastard now before we have no reputation left (if it isn't too late already).


    The following acts are approved by George W. Bush:
















    By the way: "Military Leaders: Ignore Bush Veto Threat, Ban Waterboarding"

    Thirty retired admirals and generals have penned a letter to key Democrats, urging them to defy President Bush's veto threats and pass legislation requiring U.S intelligence agents to follow strict standards for detainee treatment.

    [snip]

    "We believe it is vital to the safety of our men and women in uniform that the United States not sanction the use of interrogation methods it would find unacceptable if inflicted by the enemy against captured Americans," the military officials write. "That principle, embedded in the Army Field Manual, has guided generations of American military personnel in combat. The current situation, in which the military operates under one set of interrogation rules that are public and the CIA operates under a separate, secret set of rules, is unwise and impractical."

    So, not only is Bush PRO TORTURE, he's also AGAINST the troops.
    .

    Tony Norman Follows-up On The OPJ

    A few days ago Maria, the OPJ, brought your collective attention to a skirmish in the continuing "War on Christmas." It was an article she found at Eschaton that itself pointed to an article in Haaretz:

    Four Jewish subway riders who wished other people Happy Hanukkah werepelted with anti-Semitic remarks before being beaten, New York police and prosecutors said. The incident was being investigated as a possible hate crime.

    The four were on a train in Manhattan on Friday night, during the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, when they were approached by a group of 10 people who offered holiday greetings. The victims responded, Happy Hanukkah and were assaulted by the larger group, police said Tuesday.

    Police caught up with the train in Brooklyn and arrested eight men and two women, ages 19 and 20. They were arraigned Saturday on charges of assault, menacing, riot, harassment and disorderly conduct, the Brooklyn district attorney's office said.

    Tony Norman's got some pointed commentary on the subject today. He begins:

    Usually, I go out of my way to avoid giving rapacious media baron Rupert Murdoch any of my hard-earned cash.

    Still, Mr. Murdoch's U.S. tabloid -- the delightfully unhinged New York Post -- remains a guilty pleasure from my days as a working-class New Yorker two decades ago.

    It's easier to justify a lingering fascination with the scrappy tabloid by copping to reading it online. It spares me the indignity of paying $1.50 picking it up at newsstands this far west of the Hudson.

    I'll save you the buck-fifty - here's the article from the Post. Turns out that one of the people who tried to stop the assault was Hassan Askari, a Muslim from Pakistan. Here's how Tony describes it:

    According to news reports, Mr. Adler, his girlfriend Maria Parsheva, their friend Angelica Krischanovich and an unidentified fourth person boarded the Q train on Canal Street bound for Brooklyn.

    Someone from the group that was later arrested shouted "Merry Christmas" to the quartet when they entered. The four returned the greeting with "Happy Hanukkah." The mob, reportedly drunk and hostile, perceived this as yet another salvo in the never-ending war against Christmas.

    One guy rolled up his sleeves to show his Christ tattoo. According to Mr. Adler, the tattooed man mocked them and said: "Happy Hanukkah, that's when the Jews killed Jesus."

    To prove they were more in tune with the spirit of Kristallnacht than Christmas, the group of abusive men and women surrounded the quartet and shouted "dirty Jews" and "Jew bitches" before breaking Walter Adler's nose, causing him to gush blood like a geyser.

    Hassan Askari couldn't bear to watch it anymore. Alone among his fellow passengers, he rushed to the defense of four Jews being assaulted by "defenders" of Christmas. He got beat up for his trouble.

    I especially liked the guy with the Christ tattoo who linked Hanukkah to the cruxifiction. I'm pretty well read and for a time I usually won playing Trivial Pursuit but I'd never heard that one. Ignorance is everywhere, I guess. And of course the broken nose for saying "Happy Hanukkah." Didn't he know enough to turn the other cheek? No, wait. I guess not.

    We can be happy, though, that the War on Christmas is over.

    And Bill O'Reilly won it.

    Though if you want, get a gander at the column, O'Reilly uses to prove his point about "secular progressives." It's by Carol Towarnicky of the Philadelphia Daily News. O'Reilly quotes:
    To that, this secularist pleads guilty. No religion should be in the public square, not even when the overwhelming majority of citizens practice it. Besides, the big boxes and malls make it impossible to miss the fact that it's Christmas.
    But if you take a look at the rest of the column, it's not so much about removing religion from the public square, it's about returning Christmas to what it once was:

    Old-timers may recall that, back when Christmas was a religious holiday, the four weeks of Advent was the time when many Christians prepared their hearts for the birth of Jesus. Back then, the first Sunday of Advent used to be the official beginning of the Christmas season - before it was replaced by another religious ritual, Black Friday.

    Advent was a time of penance and fasting. It's why many traditional ethnic Christmas Eve celebrations - oyster stew for the Irish, "seven fishes" for Italians, pierogis for Eastern Europeans - are meatless. Of course, modern Christmas preparation also includes hardship, not to mention degradation. Shoppers wear themselves out spending that $435 billion we're expected to drop on Christmas this year. And what mortification could compare to the prostrations of desperate parents seeking this year's Big Gift?

    Advent was a time of great expectation, anticipation and hope. Kids and grown-ups lit candles on Advent wreaths and counted off the days of an Advent calendar. These days, surveys show that many Americans count down to Christmas not with anticipation but with dread. Google "Christmas" and find scores of warnings - from psychologists about "holiday depression," from financial advisors about the massive debt we'll incur, and from law enforcement with tips to escape the seasonal increase in crime.

    During Advent, Christians traditionally read verses from Psalms and the prophets. These days, it can be hard to hear Jesus' message over all the din, much less proclaim it.

    But I fear I've digressed.

    Happy Friday everyone!