We are the 99%

February 29, 2008

More On John Hagee

The Burgh Report posted this last night:
Sen. John McCain called a press conference today where McCain accepted the endorsement of a virulent anti-Catholic preacher from Texas.
Over at Salon.com, we learn that commited rationalist and all around even tempered guy Bill Donahue of the Catholic League is non-to-pleased:
According to Donohue, Hagee has "made a lot of money off bashing the Catholic Church and blames Catholics for the Holocaust." What does it say about McCain that he would embrace such a figure? "This doesn't speak well for him. He's tolerating an endorsement by an inveterate bigot, and it's been brought to his attention."
The League issued a statement titled: McCain Embraces Bigot. In it Donohue said:
“There are plenty of staunch evangelical leaders who are pro-Israel, but are not anti-Catholic. John Hagee is not one of them. Indeed, for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it ‘The Great Whore,’ an ‘apostate church,’ the ‘anti-Christ,’ and a ‘false cult system.’ To hear the bigot in his own words, click here. Note: he isn’t talking about the Buddhists.
That link to the youtube clip? Here it is:

Glenn Grenwald makes a good point:
It's difficult to recall a more transparent media double standard than their intense, melodramatic amplification this week of the Obama/Farrakhan matter (even though those two have no connection whatsoever), contrasted with their virtual silence about McCain's affirmative, repeated embrace of a true extremist like John Hagee.
Liberal media? What liberal media?

Down to Three

It's official, Wayne Dudding has withdrawn from the race.

Sources tell me it was a matter of funding and timing. The campaign started late, couldn't get much traction, and was having trouble raising money.

So now that leaves three:To duke it out for the chance to take on Tim Murphy.

February 28, 2008

The Campaigns Hit Pittsburgh!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Pittsburgh Official Obama Kick Off Canvass!! (Official Event)
This is the first **official** Obama canvass in the city of Pittsburgh!! So come join Obama supporters from Allegheny County and beyond as we go door to door in our neighborhoods registering voters and spreading Barack Obama's message of hope, action and change!!

Time: Saturday, March 1 at 11:00 AM
Duration: 3 hours
Host: Lauren Watts
Contact Phone: 603 759 8027
Location: Canvass Staging Area (Pittsburgh, PA) 208 N. Highland Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
RSVP @:
http://my.barackobama.com/page/event/detail/officialevent/4r8wq


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hillary Campaign Event (this Sunday)
Are you a Democrat? Are you still undecided who to vote for in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary? Would you like a chance to talk to someone who has worked closely with Hillary Clinton to learn more about her as a person and as a Presidential candidate?

If you answered yes please join Sally Katzen, former deputy assistant to the President for Economic Policy in the Clinton Administration, for a discussion about Senator Clinton. In Sally's own words: "I want to talk about the choices the people of Pennsylvania have -- the first time in many years where they have a real voice in the selection of the Democratic nominee for President. I can talk about [Senator Clinton's] position on the issues, her real solutions to the problems facing the country, her character and values, her electability and anything else anyone wants to talk about."

RSVP: Please let us know if you plan to attend by emailing: hhnorman@verizon.net
What: A conversation about Hillary Clinton with Sally Katzen
Where: The Juring Home at 2223 Beechwood Blvd, Pittsburgh PA 15217
When: Sunday March 2 at 11am


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Obama for America
Western Pennsylvania Young Professionals Kick-off Event

Take this opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an historic campaign.

WHEN:
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
7:00 PM until Midnight

WHERE:
Rolands Seafood Grill
1904 Penn Avenue in the Strip - upstairs

CONTACT:
Danny Cerrone, dcerrone@thorpreed.com
Douglas Miner, dbmpitt@yahoo.com
John McClelland, jmac@goodapples.com
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Rick Santorum - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Lil Ricky takes on Senator Obama - in his typical Lil Ricky fashion.

From his "Elephant in the Room" column over on the other side of the state.

Lil Ricky starts with HR 2175 the "Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002." Let's all recall, my friends, that Senator Obama became a US Senator in January 2005 - sometime after the debate on HR 2175.

Here's how Glenn Beck's Winston Churchill describes the law:

That bill was the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. During the partial-birth abortion debate, Congress heard testimony about babies that had survived attempted late-term abortions. Nurses testified that these preterm living, breathing babies were being thrown into medical waste bins to die or being "terminated" outside the womb. With the baby now completely separated from the mother, it was impossible to argue that the health or life of the mother was in jeopardy by giving her baby appropriate medical treatment.

The act simply prohibited the killing of a baby born alive. To address the concerns of pro-choice lawmakers, the bill included language that said nothing "shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand or contract any legal status or legal right" of the baby. In other words, the bill wasn't intruding on Roe v. Wade.

Here's the text of HR 2175. Rick says that identical language was considered by the Illinois Senate only to be killed by Barack Obama.

At this point, I should say that it's pretty obvious that Santorum reads the Washington Times and not Mediamatters.org. Here's the editorial from the Times (published Feb 1) and it's deconstruction at Mediamatters.org (posted on Feb 5). Rick's column was published today, Feb 28.

I also want to direct your attention to the text of the Illinois bill. Here it is. You're free, of course, to peruse what Senator Santorum has declared in his column to be "identical." Of course it's not. Santorum might have been talking about some other text, of course. But the quotations from Senator Obama were about that bill. If Santorum was talking about something else, he was misleading his audience - and we couldn't imagine such a thing, right?

In any event, Rick Santorum would have saved himself a whole mess of embarrassment (as if that's possible) if he were to just have read the posting at mediamatters. Here's the Summary:
A Washington Times editorial falsely claimed that Sen. Barack Obama "argu[ed] cold-bloodedly on the Illinois Senate floor that babies who survive botched late-term abortions should not be considered 'persons' because this would be tantamount to admitting 'that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a -- a child, a 9-month old -- child that was delivered to term.' " In fact, he was not discussing "late-term abortions" in the remarks the editorial highlighted; Obama was asserting that the bill in question, which was not limited to late-term abortions, would "essentially bar abortions."
And then what Senator Obama actually said at that point. Here is some more of it:
Well, it turned out -- that during the testimony a number of members who are typically in favor of a woman's right to choose an abortion were actually sympathetic to some of the concerns that your -- you raised and that were raised by witnesses in the testimony. And there was some suggestion that we might be able to craft something that might meet constitutional muster with respect to caring for fetuses or children who were delivered in this fashion. Unfortunately, this bill goes a little bit further, and so I just want to suggest, not that I think it'll make too much difference with respect to how we vote, that this is probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny. Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we're really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a -- a child, a nine-month-old -- child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it -- it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child. Then this would be an antiabortion statute. For that purpose, I think it would probably be found unconstitutional.
And then what did Ricky say? Something about a "rigid adherence" to liberalism? Here's Senator Obama again:
I think it's important to recognize though that this is an area where potentially we might have compromised and -- and arrived at a bill that dealt with the narrow concerns about how a -- a previable fetus or child was treated by a hospital. We decided not to do that. We're going much further than that in this bill. As a consequence, I think that we will probably end up in court once again, as we often do, on this issue. And as a consequence, I'll be voting Present.
The Rick Santorums of the world never let facts get in the way of their propaganda.

February 27, 2008

Meet The Candidates - Steve O'Donnell

Had a phone interview a few days ago with Steve O'Donnell.

He's among those running for the Democratic Party's nomination for the chance to run against Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18).

I started with some general questions and then we moved on to some issues.

O'Donnell explained his decision to enter the race as not a sudden one but part of a developmental process where he came to the conclusion that "clearly there's a time for change in this country."

He sited a few numbers. He started with the numbers of American troops killed in Iraq (in the thousands) and wounded in Iraq (in the tens of thousands), the numbers of Iraqis dead and wounded (in the hundreds of thousands) and the money wasted in a war we were at best manipulated into and at worst lied into (between $8 and 12 billion - with a "b"). Then there's the trampling of the Constituion, the lost of respect overseas. You get the idea.

It was a cumulative effect, he said.

On the war, he said that the Bush Administration is not done well in meeting the needs of the troops returning home. That the modest gains in Iraq have only come to pass because the Iraqis' political will that underpins the war is evaporating - they're realizing, he said, that the resources coming from the American military won't be available for very much longer. In spending so much time settling old scores, they've wasted an opportunity.

The troops should be removed safely - though he's not confident it'll happen soon. The plan for the troops' removal has to be directed by the military - the Congress' job is to set the policy. It's for the military to implement it. He expects to see this with a new Democratic President and a growing majority in Congress.

We had a long talk about Health Care. He's in favor of (and he said this more than once) "a single payer, not-for-profit, universal health care system." The current system, he said, doesn't need to be repaired, it needs to be completely replaced. It's a system, he said, that's "horribly upside-down."

He's looking at a system where the Doctors and hospitals stay private, but the government (with a 3 or 3.1 percent raise in income tax) pays the medical bills. Once the profit motive is taken out of the system, he said, it would save a substantial amount of money.

We got into a shorter discussion of some hot button issues.

He's a big fan of the Equal protection guarantees in the Constitution and as such feels that in order for the Constitution to truly offer equal protection, the same rights must be extended to all citizens. It follows that if a straight couple can get married, then a gay couple should also be able to get married. Anything else is discriminatory and contrary to the Constitution's equal protection provisions.

He's also pro-choice. He said that Roe v Wade has less to do with abortion than it has about privacy. Once the right to privacy has been established, a woman's right to choose follows closely after. He said that right is fairly absolute in the first trimester - but once the fetus is viable (and this is from the text of Roe v Wade) the government does have some say.

We ended the interview with him casually pointing out how Congressman Murphy voted with George W. Bush "100% if the time on key issues."

Well now, who would've guessed that??

February 26, 2008

I just vomited a little in my mouth

Right-wing pundit Glenn Beck not only calls defeated ex Senator (and ex PA resident) Lil Ricky Santorum the "rising star" in the conservative movement but also calls him "a Winston Churchill."


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August Wilson Boyhood Home FINALLY Gets Historic Designation

The long delayed effort to make the boyhood home of Pittsburgh native son August Wilson into a designated historic structure was just passed in a final vote by Pittsburgh City Council.


August Wilson in front of his boyhood home.

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EVENTS

February 26, 2008

Public Hearing on the Campaign Finance Reform (Bill No. 2008-0026)
WHAT:
Pittsburgh City Council Public Hearing on Campaign Finance Reform Bill
WHEN: TODAY! Tuesday, February 26th, 2008, 2:00 PM
WHERE: Pittsburgh City Council Chambers, City-County Building, 414 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 (Corner of Grant & Forbes, 5th Floor)

On Tuesday at 2:00 PM, City Council will be holding a Public Hearing to discuss the recently introduced Campaign Finance Reform bill. Pennsylvania is one of the only states in the country without campaign finance reform regulations. In the other states, cities have enacted their own rules to promote fair and transparent elections. Even Philadelphia has passed campaign finance reform legislation. Tell City Hall it is time for Pittsburgh to join the modern era by clicking here. To learn more, click here.

Drinking Liberally Pittsburgh Returns!
WHAT:
Drinking Liberally Pittsburgh
WHEN: TODAY! Tuesday, February 26th, 2008, 7:00 PM
WHERE: Buffalo Blues, 216 S Highland Ave in Shadyside, Pittsburgh PA

Starting next Tuesday, February 26th, 2008, Drinking Liberally Pittsburgh returns. Join us at Buffalo Blues, 216 S Highland Ave in Shadyside at 7:00PM for an evening of progressive converation and liberal, but responsible!, drinking. The manager has given us the upper floor area for our gathering so we won't have to talk over the music and other festivities. Look for the Drinking Liberally arrow near the stairs and come on up! For more information on the location and meeting dates, please visit the Drinking Liberally chapters page: http://drinkingliberally.org/locations.html and scroll down to Pittsburgh's entry. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop an email at pittsburgh@drinkingliberally.org


February 27, 2008

Post Agenda on New Mega-electronic Billboard
WHAT:
Pittsburgh City Council Post Agenda on Downtown LED Billboard and the Department of City Planning
WHEN: Wednesday, February 27th, 2008, 1:30 PM
WHERE: Pittsburgh City Council Chambers, City-County Building, 414 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219 (Corner of Grant & Forbes, 5th Floor)

On Wednesday at 1:30 PM, City Council will hold a special meeting to investigate the apparent lack of due process in granting a permit to build an electronic billboard at Grant and Liberty. The City Code requires approval from the Zoning Board of Adjustment (to increase a non-conforming use), approval from the Planning Commission (for exterior improvements greater than $50,000 downtown) and approval from City Council (to grant a Conditional Use application). All three approvals require a Public Hearing to hear from the people. Additionally, because the garage is owned by the public, any contract would have to be advertised and open to bids. The permit was issued without any approvals, any public hearings and the contract was awarded without any other vendors being permitted to bid. Let City Council know how you feel by clicking here. To learn more, click here.
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Another View of "The Awakening"

We've heard some about the "Awakening" that took place in Iraq - how it's lead to a reduction in violence at about the same time as dubya's "Surge."

From the New York Times last April:

Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.

“Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.”

Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

And so on.

Reality, just like a fractal image, gets much more complicated the closer you get. From Rolling Stone:
Now, in the midst of the surge, the Bush administration has done an about-face. Having lost the civil war, many Sunnis were suddenly desperate to switch sides — and Gen. David Petraeus was eager to oblige. The U.S. has not only added 30,000 more troops in Iraq — it has essentially bribed the opposition, arming the very Sunni militants who only months ago were waging deadly assaults on American forces. To engineer a fragile peace, the U.S. military has created and backed dozens of new Sunni militias, which now operate beyond the control of Iraq's central government. The Americans call the units by a variety of euphemisms: Iraqi Security Volunteers (ISVs), neighborhood watch groups, Concerned Local Citizens, Critical Infrastructure Security. The militias prefer a simpler and more dramatic name: They call themselves Sahwa, or "the Awakening."
It's a long article, but it's worth working through. Basically, whatever "successes" the surge has brought has been tied to the continued bribing of both sides to stand down.

What do you think will happen when the money stops flowing?

From Talking Points Memo - John McCain's Lobbying Troubles

Josh Marshall explains it all:

February 25, 2008

Academy Picks Its Top Fave Last Night

Outlining the Future Obama Attack

Hey, take a look at this. For a party that distains "poll driven" politics, the GOP is certainly burning the midnight oil working with one. From The Politico:

Top Republican strategists are working on plans to protect the GOP from charges of racism or sexism in the general election, as they prepare for a presidential campaign against the first ever African-American or female Democratic nominee.

The Republican National Committee has commissioned polling and focus groups to determine the boundaries of attacking a minority or female candidate, according to people involved. The secretive effort underscores the enormous risk senior GOP operatives see for a party often criticized for its insensitivity to minorities in campaigns dating back to the 1960s.

The RNC project is viewed as so sensitive that those involved in the work were reluctant to discuss the findings in detail. But one Republican strategist, who asked that his name be withheld to speak candidly, said the research shows the daunting and delicate task ahead.

And further down the page:
In other words, Republicans should expect a severe backlash if they say or do anything that smacks of politicizing race or gender. They didn’t need an expensive poll to learn that lesson, however.
As we already know the attack on Senator Clinton; Whitewater, Travelgate, Rose Law Firm billing memos, the Vince Foster "murder", the cackling cold-hearted thespian who can cry on cue, and so on. So just how will they be attacking Senator Obama? We can see it here:
Sen. Barack Obama's refusal to wear an American flag lapel pin along with a photo of him not putting his hand over his heart during the National Anthem led conservatives on Internet and in the media to question his patriotism.
And that's from the AP. Too bad it takes them 17 paragraphs to get to the truth:

Last summer, Obama was photographed by Time magazine at an event in Iowa standing with his hands folded during the national anthem. His primary rivals Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson appear beside him, with their hands on their hearts.

It has been repeatedly reported that the moment came during the Pledge of Allegiance, but that's not the case.

It was at the singing of the National Anthem. Snopes has the whole story.

For a party that cheered the dishonest Swiftboat attacks, attacking the patriotism of a standing member of the United States Senate would not be too hard.

February 24, 2008

Jack Kelly Sunday

Jack Kelly attacks Senator Obama this week.

He begins with something having little to do with Obama himself:

Texas state Sen. Kirk Watson had an embarrassing moment the night the candidate he is supporting for president won the Wisconsin primary. MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked him to name a legislative accomplishment of Sen. Barack Obama.

"I'm not going to be able to do that tonight," Mr. Watson replied.

And then uses that embarrassing episode (see it here) to imply that because state Senator Watson couldn't do it that night, no one would be able to do it. Check out what State Senator Watson himself had to say about the evening:

So . . . That really happened.

On Tuesday night, after an important and historic victory in the Wisconsin Presidential Primary by Senator Barack Obama, I appeared on the MSNBC post-election program. “Hardball” host Chris Matthews (who is, it turns out, as ferocious as they say), began grilling me on Senator Obama’s legislative record.

And my mind went blank. I expected to be asked about the primary that night, or the big one coming up in Texas on March 4, or just about anything else in the news. When the subject changed so emphatically, I reached for information that millions of my fellow Obama supporters could recite by heart, and I couldn’t summon it.

My most unfortunate gaffe is not, in any way, a comment on Senator Obama, his substantial record, or the great opportunity we all share to elect him President of the United States.

Had I not lost my mind, here are the accomplishments I would have mentioned:

  • Senator Obama’s fight for universal children’s health care in Illinois.
  • His success bringing Republicans and Democrats together (a huge selling point for me in general) on bills such as the one in Illinois requiring police interrogations and confessions to be videotaped.
  • His leadership on ethics reform in Washington (the bill that lobbyists and special interests are complaining about right now has his name on it).
  • His bill to make the federal budget far more transparent and accessible to Americans via the Internet – we could use that openness in Texas.
  • And his vital work with Republicans to lock down nuclear weapons around the world.
So it's not as if there's nothing there, only that Watson's brain burped and couldn't bring any of it to the surface.

Nice spin, Jack. You almost got away with it. Almost.

My guess is that Watson won't be speaking out for Senator Obama anytime soon.

Kelly then goes on to reference a few reliable voices to (of course) objectively assess Senator Obama. First, David From of the National Review. Here's what Kelly says:

Or any other night. Barack Obama, noted National Review's David Frum, has the thinnest resume of any candidate for president since William Jennings Bryan in 1896. Then 36 (the youngest man ever nominated for president), Bryan had been a congressman for only six undistinguished years when he electrified the Democratic convention with his "Cross of Gold" speech.

Bryan got creamed in the general election, which suggests there is a limit to how high a populist with little on his resume besides a charismatic personality and a silver tongue can rise.

And here's what Frum had to say:

Like Obama , Bryan was a charismatic young political (just 36 at the time of his first presidential run!) with a thin political record. Yet on the strength of one legendary speech at a Democratic national convention, he was clutched to heart by the party's left wing and made the repository of its grandest hopes on a whole range of so-called progressive causes.

Bryan stands - or should stand - in American political history as an object lesson in the dangers of choosing politicians without records of accomplishment on the basis of fine phrases alone. If Obama loses in 2008 - or (at least as possible) wins, and then goes on to fail as president - I wonder if many Democrats will not be haunted by the warning that Hillary Clinton gave earlier in this cycle: There is a big difference between making speeches and making change. Deval Patrick and Barack Obama jointly deny it. Bryan's career suggests that the former first lady will likely be proved right.

I'm just surprised to see anyone on the right writing that Senator Hillary Clinton "will likely to be proved right." Small matter.

The next reference to objectively asses Senator Obama is Tom Buffenbarger, the president of a union endorsing Senator Clinton.

He then quotes Senator McCain and implies that Obama's current edge has more to do with his opponent's missteps than with his own campaign:

"Don't be deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history," said Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee.

Eloquent but empty calls for change seem to be working well enough for Mr. Obama in the battle for the Democratic nomination. But that may be due more to the weaknesses of Hillary Clinton than to his strengths.

Talk about objective assessments!

The curious thing about the column is the ending:

If Mr. Obama is ultimately to be the Democratic nominee, it could be just as well for Republicans to have the race settled early. As long as Barack and Hillary battle, journalists can focus on horse race trivia. But if Mrs. Clinton folds her tent and slinks away, journalists will have little to write about except Mr. Obama's thin resume and left-wing voting record.

"I've got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing trust fund babies crowding in to hear (Mr. Obama) speak," Mr. Buffenbarger said. "This guy won't last a round against the Republican attack machine."

It's nice to see Jack Kelly admitting the Republican attack machine exists. Think about it: Jack's inclusion of the line in the column only makes sense if Jack himself believes that it's true.

THANKS, JACK!

February 22, 2008

McCain's Other Problem

Forget, if you can, the big McCain story from yesterday (I won't even bother linking to it - you know what it is).

His real problem (or at least one of them) is this.
McCain applied to be certified for federal matching money last year, when his campaign was running on fumes. But unlike former North Carolina senator John Edwards, McCain never actually took the federal funds. He was merely preserving that option. Once his campaign started to take off, he wrote to the FEC requesting to withdraw from the program.
Here's the response from the FEC. They said no. He can't withdraw. Which means he's tied into all the spending limitations he agreed to.

The Washington Post first reported last Saturday what the maverick Straight-Talk-Express man was trying to do. The Post begins:

John McCain's cash-strapped campaign borrowed $1 million from a Bethesda bank two weeks before the New Hampshire primary by pledging to enter the public financing system if his bid for the presidency faltered, newly disclosed records show.

McCain had already taken a $3 million bank loan in November to keep his campaign afloat, and he sought from the same bank $1 million more shortly before this month's Super Tuesday contests, this time pledging incoming but unprocessed contributions as collateral. He never used the funds of the most recent loan, because his win in the South Carolina primary helped him raise enough money to compete in Florida, his campaign aides said last night.

A little later:
Under the agreement, McCain promised that if his campaign began to falter, he would commit to keeping his campaign alive and to entering the federal financing system so the money he had raised could be used to gain an infusion of matching funds. Had that happened, he would have been forced to abide by strict federal spending caps before the Republican National Convention in September.
Paul Kiel at Talking Points Memo puts it another way:
As The Washington Post reported on Saturday, John McCain's campaign struck a canny deal with a bank in December. If his campaign tanked, public funds would be there to bail him out. But if he emerged as the nominee, there'd be no need for public financing, since the contributions would come flowing.
But things got complicated. Here's Josh Marshall from Talking Points Memo:

Back in August McCain opted into the public financing system for the primaries. Then in December he needed to come up with some cash quickly. Well, no problem. He was already guaranteed over $5 million from the feds. So all he needed to do was put that guarantee down as collateral for the loan.

Only McCain didn't want to do that because once he formally made the federally-guaranteed money collateral then he gave up his right to later opt back out of the system.

But, he really, really needed the money. So McCain, along with his campaign finance lawyer Trevor Potter (whom I've met and is a very sharp guy) came up with a workaround. It went like this. McCain wouldn't make the guarantee collateral. But he promised that if his campaign tanked he would opt out of the system and then opt back in. This would mean remaining a candidate even after he knew he wasn't really in the race in order to a) get back the public money to pay his creditors and b) assure he could sign the original loan note with the de facto collateral while nonetheless maintaining his ability to once again opt out of the public financing system at any one of many possible future junctures at which his campaign might pop back from life support and it would be in his interest to go back to raising money from donors.

Of course, McCain's campaign did come off the mat. And since he now wants to raise and spend as much as possible before the end of the summer, earlier this month he did actually opt back out. The FEC, the outfit that enforces the campaign finance laws, says McCain's not allowed to opt out. But whatever, he opted out anyway.

And this was the guy lecturing Senator Obama on campaign finance ethics.

I guess Senator McCain was in favor of public financing before he was against it.

Pittsburgh Housing Authority Waste Exposed by Local Blogger

Local blogger Matt H's long awaited story on ridiculously wasteful spending at Pittsburgh's Housing Authority has finally made the news. Marty Griffin interviews Matt on KDKA News here.

Matt has hundreds of documented instances of abusive spending.

Urban Redevelopment Authority executive director -slash- Parking Authority chairman -slash- Housing Authority chairman* Patrick Ford is also interviewed by Griffith. Ford has been on the Housing Authority Board for a year -- much of that time overlapping with Matt's documentation of waste.

Great job, Matt!


* h/t to the Comet
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February 21, 2008

Darth Vader Turd Blossom Is Coming to Pitt!

Someone spotted an ad in the Pitt News and passed it along to me:

You can see the online edition here.
An Evening with Karl Rove

March 3
8:30 PM
Assembly Room (WPU)
Price: Free for Pitt Students


Karl Rove, the former Deputy Cheif of Staff and Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush will be on Pitt's Campus on Monday March 3rd at 8:30 pm in the WPU Assembly Room.

"No presidential appointee has ever had such a strong infludence on politics and policy, and none is likely to do so again anytime soon." - Michael Barone, US News & World Reports.

-Tickets are available in the Pitt Program Council Ticket Office WPU with avalid Pitt ID.

-Your ticket and valid Pitt Student ID guarantees admission until 8:15 p.m. Doors will open at 7:45 p.m. No reserving of seats is permitted.

-This event is for Pitt Students only.

Call 648-7900 with any questions. Or email ppc@pitt.edu

I would think that all of Pittsburgh would like to protest welcome Mr. Rove.







UPDATE: Yes, for some reason while I was informed that Rove would be coming to town and found a link to the Pitt event page for Rove coming to town, I still somehow had it in my head that it was Cheney who was coming to town. It must be all that dope that we libruls smoke.
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Meet The Candidates - Wayne Dudding UPDATE

Remember this?

There was another one of those "pizza and blogger" things with Wayne Dudding last night. Repeating the full disclosure from last time (just to be safe). I work in the same office as Dudding's wife - we've known each other for a few years.

Slag Heap blogger (and, of course, editor of the City Paper) Chris Potter showed up and I gotta say it was an education to watch him interview Dudding. Early on I realized that his questions, while certainly more detailed and articulate than mine, ran basically parallel to what I asked a few weeks ago. And as I didn't want to get in the way of the real professional in the room, I figured it would be best for me to just ask a few follow up questions once they were done.

I asked about what effect the possible end of the Muqtada al-Sadr cease fire would have on the reduction of violence in Iraq. You can read about the cease-fire's possible end here. Dudding said that while it was potentially destabilizing with little upside, it would be hard to say how much of an affect it would have. The "Anbar Awakening", he said, had a much greater impact on the reduction of violence in Iraq.

The Times had a good description of the "Awakening":

Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.

“Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.”

Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.

This was from April, 2007 long before the beginning of Sadr's cease-fire.

On yesterday's survey, he offered up some details on how wide and deep the strain really is.

Not only is there a huge strain on families (with rising suicide rates, divorce rates and so on) but there's another more silent strain - the equipment being used in Iraq was never designed for such a quick "operational tempo," he said. The C-130 cargo planes, for instance, are degrading quicker the more they're used. "It's almost like dog years," he added. There are repair depots with huge backlogs for humvees and other vehicles.

The human cost is also very high - he said he'd heard that 70% of those troops in Iraq who contacted a JAG (a military lawyer) did so because of a divorce.

He added that he's not cinfident that the military could respond someplace else in the world adequately because of the the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

February 20, 2008

Mr 19%

It's time to bring back the Melting Bushie!

From the American Research Group:
Concerns over Economy Push
George W. Bush's Overall Job Approval to New Low


George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has dropped to a new low in American Research Group polling as 78% of Americans say that the national economy is getting worse according to the latest survey from the American Research Group.

Among all Americans, 19% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 77% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 14% approve and 79% disapprove.
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A Strained Military

Via this from Reuters, I found this at Foreign Policy magazine.

More collateral damage from dubya's bloody war. The Foreign Policy article begins:
Today, the U.S. military is engaged in a campaign that is more demanding and intense than anything it has witnessed in a generation. Ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now entering their fifth and seventh years respectively, have lasted longer than any U.S. military engagements of the past century, with the exception of Vietnam. More than 25,000 American servicemen and women have been wounded and over 4,000 killed. Additional deployments in the Balkans, on the Korean Peninsula, and elsewhere are putting further pressure on the military’s finite resources. And, at any time, U.S. forces could be called into action in one of the world’s many simmering hot spots—from Iran or Syria, to North Korea or the Taiwan Strait. Yet, even as the U.S. military is being asked to sustain an unprecedented pace of operations across the globe, many Americans continue to know shockingly little about the forces responsible for protecting them. Nearly 70 percent of Americans report that they have a high level of confidence in the military, yet fewer than 1 in 10 has ever served. Politicians often speak favorably about people in uniform, but less than one quarter of the U.S. Congress has donned a uniform. It is not clear whether the speeches and sound bites we hear from politicians and experts actually reflect the concerns of those who protect our nation.
And after a brief description of the methods of the survey, they drop this into the mix:
These officers see a military apparatus severely strained by the grinding demands of war. Sixty percent say the U.S. military is weaker today than it was five years ago. Asked why, more than half cite the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the pace of troop deployments those conflicts require. More than half the officers say the military is weaker than it was either 10 or 15 years ago. But asked whether “the demands of the war in Iraq have broken the U.S. military,” 56 percent of the officers say they disagree. That is not to say, however, that they are without concern. Nearly 90 percent say that they believe the demands of the war in Iraq have “stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin.”
You can find the data here.

Some highlights.

When asked to about this statement:
The demands of the war in Iraq have stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin.
88% said they either "strongly" agreed (52%) or somewhat agreed (36%) and only 10 disagreed - 7% somewhat and 3% strongly.

When asked:
Which of the following statements best reflects your personal and professional view?
74% said that The civilian leadership (that would be dubya and his crew) set unreasonable goals for the U.S. military to accomplish in post-Saddam Iraq.

When asked:
In your view, is the equipment and protection (e.g., body armor, up-armored HMMVs, etc.) provided to U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan adequate or inadequate?
45% said inadequate. Only 34% said adequate.

And so on.

February 19, 2008

HAPPY 40th!

Today is the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood" which as every Pittsburgher knows originated in our fair city.

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

In related Rogers News:

While there is apparently no truth to the rumor that Rogers' boyhood home in Latrobe, PA will be denied historic designation due to any balls being dropped, it is true that the trolley in Pittsburgh's “neighborhood of make-believe” was in a snow-related accident last Tuesday (King Friday suffered minor injuries).

City Councilwoman Darlene "I have cameras on my house" Harris told reporters that this never would have happened if the trolley had been traveling in her neighborhood of Springhill.

Upon hearing of the accident, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl declared a surge was needed in his war on snow.

McCain and Dubya

From Talkingpointsmemo.

What a maverick! Such straight talk!

Given that al-Qaeda wasn't even in Iraq before dubya's invasion, it's hard to see how al-Qaeda would have succeeded there if the war hadn't started.

So nearly 4,000 American troops and countless Iraqis dead, thousands more maimed, our economy faltering, our standing in the international community a shambles, an illegal war based on lies and deceptions - that's all good for John McCain.

But it is nice to see Senator McCain feeding his man-crush on dubya, though he's not getting too too close.

From the NYTimes:
Senator John McCain’s campaign advisers will ask the White House to deploy President Bush for major Republican fund-raising, but they do not want the president to appear too often at his side, top aides to Mr. McCain said Sunday.
How's that for sending mixed signals??

February 18, 2008

Am I Missing Something?

On July 14th (Bastille Day, for all you Francophiles out there) last year the P-G reported:
Former Congresswoman Melissa Hart says she is planning a comeback bid to regain the seat she lost a year ago to Democrat Jason Altmire.
On February 11 (National Inventor's Day for all you Thomas Edison fans out there) of this year KDKA reported on Melissa Hart's opening salvo in her comback bid, a negative ad:

When Congressman Jason Altmire beat Congresswoman Melissa Hart in 2006 by just 8,500 votes, it was pretty likely that Hart would try a comeback.

That's exactly what she's doing - only this time she won't wait until she gets attacked by Altmire.

Hart has launched her first television ad on cable television and the Internet and it goes right after Altmire's record.

And according to Opensecrets.org, as of the end of 2007, Melissa Hart has raised nearly a third of a million dollars.

So can someone please tell me why her campaign website hasn't been updated from before November, 2006?

I picked this up from the website at 10:35pm on 2/18/08:

You'd think website maintenance would be an important thing for a campaign.

Good Luck Today

I wonder if we'll survive till dinner time.

For those of you who don't know, this will be the first weekday our great nation will be left unprotected by the now defunct "Protect America Act." Now, according to the great leader, "our country is in more danger of an attack" because the cowards in the House of Representatives didn't roll over and give him what he wanted. More from the AP:

"American citizens must understand, clearly understand that there's still a threat on the homeland. There's still an enemy which would like to do us harm," Bush said. "We've got to give our professionals the tools they need, to be able to figure out what the enemy is up to so we can stop it."

"By blocking this piece of legislation, our country is more in danger of an attack," he said.

Too bad Ronald Reagan's fav-rit newspaper, the Washington Times had this to say recently:

Many intelligence scholars and analysts outside the government say that today's expiration of certain temporary domestic wiretapping laws will have little effect on national security, despite warnings to the contrary by the White House and Capitol Hill Republican leaders.

With the Protect America Act expiring this weekend, domestic wiretapping rules will revert to the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires the government to obtain a warrant from a special court to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance in the United States.

The original FISA law, these experts say, provides the necessary tools for the intelligence community to eavesdrop on suspected terrorists.

Indeed, this stuff was supposed to have been resolved a while back. Dubya even said so on October 27, 2001:

The bill I signed yesterday gives intelligence and law enforcement officials additional tools they need to hunt and capture and punish terrorists. Our enemies operate by highly sophisticated methods and technologies, using the latest means of communication and the new weapon of bioterrorism.

When earlier laws were written, some of these methods did not even exist. The new law recognizes the realities and dangers posed by the modern terrorist. It will help us to prosecute terrorist organizations -- and also to detect them before they strike.
Since 11th of September, the men and women of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been relentless in their work. In return for their exceptional service, these public servants deserve our full support, and every means of help that we can provide. Intelligence operations and criminal investigations have often had to operate on separate tracks. The new law will make it easier for all agencies to share vital information about terrorist activity.

Surveillance of communications is another essential method of law enforcement. But for a long time, we have been working under laws written in the era of rotary telephones. Under the new law, officials may conduct court-ordered surveillance of all modern forms of communication used by terrorists.

In recent years, some investigations have been hindered by limits on the reach of federal search warrants. Officials had to get a new warrant for each new district and investigation covered, even when involving the same suspect. As of now, warrants are valid across districts and across state lines.

And what did he sign on October 26 of that year? Read on, MacDuff:
Six and a half weeks after the worst acts of terrorism ever committed on U.S. soil, President Bush signed into law the wide-reaching "USA Patriot Act," which authorizes broad new powers for law enforcement agencies that Congress rejected in less turbulent times.
That's right. We're left unprotected in these troubled times by the USA Patriot Act. Not to mention the FISA court and the rest of the intelligence community.

That's what dubya and his many apologists want us to believe.

How stupid do they think we are?

February 17, 2008

Jack Kelly Sunday

There's not much to fact-check on in this week's column by our friend Jack Kelly. So this will be short.

This week's column is about the death of Imad Mugniyah, international terrorist. Here's how Jack descrbes him:
A Lebanese Shiite, Mr. Mugniyah was for many years the most wanted man on the planet. He got his start in terrorism as a bodyguard for PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. He masterminded the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut. He was behind the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, in which Navy diver Robert Stethem was murdered, and the bombings of Jewish targets in Argentina in the early 1990s. He is suspected of having planned the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia.
And then J-Kel continues:

Mr. Mugniyah first met Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, in Sudan in the early 1990s. "He then played a role in moving fighters loyal to bin Laden from Afghanistan to Iraq, through Iranian territory, by exploiting his relationships with the Revolutionary Guards, al-Zawahiri, Saad bin Laden (Osama's son) and Mohammed al-Islambouli, whose brother assassinated the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat," reported Asharq al-Awsat. Some Israeli intelligence officers think he played a support role in the 9/11 attacks on America.

Here's the article from Asharq al-Awsat that Jack quotes. Pretty safe to say that Mugniyah was a bad bad man.

Jack, however, kinda sorta fudges things (no surprise) with this paragraph:
Mr. Mugniyah's connections indicate relations between Sunni Islamists and Shiite Islamists are not as standoffish as some benighted CIA analysts and most Democrats believe. "The relationship between al-Qaida and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shiite divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations," noted the 9/11 commission in a portion of its report journalists rarely cite.
Here's the paragraph from the 9/11 Commission report that Jack quotes. It's from Chapter 2, page 61:
Turabi sought to persuade Shiites and Sunnis to put aside their divisions and join against the common enemy. In late 1991 or 1992, discussions in Sudan between al Qaeda and Iranian operatives led to an informal agreement to cooperate in providing support—even if only training—for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States.Not long afterward, senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives. In the fall of 1993,another such delegation went to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for further training in explosives as well as in intelligence and security. Bin Ladin reportedly showed particular interest in learning how to use truck bombs such as the one that had killed 241 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983.The relation-ship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations.As will be described in chapter 7,al Qaeda contacts with Iran continued in ensuing years.52
Notice something? The dates are all from at least 15 years ago. The last sentence points to contacts that "continued in the ensuing years" with a footnote that points to research all at least 7 years old:
52. Intelligence report, Establishment of a Tripartite Agreement Among Usama Bin Ladin, Iran, and the NIF, Jan. 31, 1997; Intelligence report, Cooperation Among Usama Bin Ladin’s Islamic Army, Iran, and the NIF, Jan. 31 1997; FBI report of investigation, interview of Fadl,Nov. 10, 1996; trial testimony of Fadl, United States v. bin Laden, Feb. 6, 2001 (transcript pp. 290–293); FBI report of investigation, interview of confidential source, Sept. 16, 1999.
Yet, sneaky Jack is using that, it seems to me, to infer how Shia-Sunni divisions are not an insurmountable barrier now.

Don't get me wrong. Things may be exactly the way Jack Kelly describes them - his argument just isn't solid enough to prove it, however. Need to work a little harder, my friend.

Which brings me to my final point. I am not sure if Jack Kelly realizes this, but in this column he puts George Washington, first President of the United States, father of our country, etc etc and so on, in the same analogous position as Imad Mugniyah, international terrorist.

Look, he starts with the story of Captian Patrick Ferguson, British marksman who reportedly almost killed Washington before the Battle of Brandywine in 1777 (for you coincidence phreaks, the battle was on September 11, that year). Here's what he says:

At the battle of Brandywine in 1777, Capt. Patrick Ferguson, the deadliest marksman in the British army, had a bead on a tall, distinguished American officer, but the officer's back was turned to him and Ferguson thought it would be ungentlemanly to take the shot. He lowered his rifle.

History is biography. Would there be a United States of America if Capt. Ferguson had killed George Washington that day?

Our most dangerous enemy is dead. [emphasis added]

And then he goes on to talk about Imad Mugniyah. The inclusion of the first two paragraphs only make sense if you're able to shift your frame of reference to that of the British in 1777. To them, Kelly seems to be saying, Washington was their "most dangerous enemy." It was only because of Ferguson's sense of right and wrong that he wasn't killed that day.

The message (inadvertant as I hope it was) that if Mugniyah was a dangerous terrorist, then Washington was a also dangerous terrorist, if only to the British 230 years ago.

According to the rhetorical rules of our current climate, Jack Kelly just equated George Washington to Imad Mugniyah. Nice going, Jack.

Who would have thought of the possibility that Jack Kelly, former National Security Correspondent to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, could be calling the father of our country a terrorist?

February 16, 2008

Saturday Morning Fact-Checking

I found this at Crooks and Liars:
Five Times As Many Americans Think The Sun Revolves Around The Earth Than Believe Oil Co’s., HMOs, Are Honest.
It leads back to a blog called the The Daily Irrelevant. It starts:
In a recently released Harris Poll survey, 79% of American adults believe the sun revolves around the earth. I am not making this up.
They should have checked their own link. It goes back to The Smirking Chimp:
In a recently released Harris Poll survey, 21% of American adults believe the sun revolves around the earth. I am not making this up.
And the Smirking Chimp should have been a little more careful as well - here's the Gallup poll in question and here's the part about the Sun:
Probing a more universal measure of knowledge, Gallup also asked the following basic science question, which has been used to indicate the level of public knowledge in two European countries in recent years: "As far as you know, does the earth revolve around the sun or does the sun revolve around the earth?" In the new poll, about four out of five Americans (79%) correctly respond that the earth revolves around the sun, while 18% say it is the other way around.
3% don't know. That's scary on its own.

But even corrected, the original point is still interesting to ponder. Roughly the same percentage of Americans believe that the Sun travels around the Earth as believe that the oil companies (or tobacco companies) are honest.

February 14, 2008

Tonight's Special Comment



UPDATE: Crooks and Liars has a transcript. The posting is titled "President Bush is a Liar and a Fascist."

So there.

Senator McCain on Torture

Via Think Progress:
Today, the Senate brought the Intelligence Authorization Bill to the floor, which contained a provision from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) establishing one interrogation standard across the government. The bill requires the intelligence community to abide by the same standards as articulated in the Army Field Manual and bans waterboarding.
It passed the Senate 51-45.

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey voted for the bill and Senator Arlen Specter voted against.

Among the other 45 was former POW and critic of the use of torture, Senator John McCain.

Think Progress has noted that McCain said the Army Field Manual should be the standard for interrogations:
I would hope that we would understand, my friends, that life is not 24 and Jack Bauer. Life is interrogation techniques which are humane and yet effective. And I just came back from visiting a prison in Iraq. The army general there said that techniques under the Army Field Manual are working and working effectively, and he didn’t think they need to do anything else. My friends, this is what America is all about.

And yet he voted in favor of giving the CIA the option to torture. What a MAVERICK! Such STRAIGHT TALK from a NO NONSENSE sort of guy!

From the NYTimes:

The Senate voted 51 to 45 on Wednesday afternoon to ban waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods used by the Central Intelligence Agency against high-level terrorism suspects.

Senate Republicans generally opposed the bill, but several of them also did not want to cast a vote that could be construed as supporting torture, and so were relying on President Bush to make good on a threat to veto legislation limiting C.I.A. interrogation techniques.

The prohibition of harsh interrogation techniques is part of a wider intelligence authorization bill and would restrict all American interrogators to techniques allowed in the Army Field Manual, which bars the use of physical force.

The Army is such a bunch of whusses, isn't it? I mean what sort of weak-on-terror defeatist wouldn't want to have the option to waterboard a little in the midst of an important interrogation?

February 13, 2008

Gitmo Trials

The P-G editorial today today:

Six men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks on the United States, held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be put on trial in the near future.

It is appropriate that the accused face trial, as opposed to continuing to be held at Guantanamo without charge, in clear contradiction of the American principles of due process of law. Yet there are some real problems.

Then they rattle off five problems (though I think the first and last are related) they have with the trials. The first is the fact that it's taken more than five years to bring these guys to trial. The second is that one of the accused was waterboarded, though no one in the Bush Government is willing to say that's torture (I wonder why - could it be that it would admitting to a war crime?). The third problem the P-G sees is that the trial won't be in a regular courtroom (like the one that convicted Ramzi Yousef) but in a military courtroom, where the rules are different. The fourth problem is that the military court could ask for the death penalty - something the rest of the civilized world thinks is barbaric and finally the timing of the trial - just in time for the 2008 Presidential Election Season. Just in time to show what the he-men of the God's Own Party do to those evil-doer terrrists! Imagine the coincidence!

But there are other issues at play. Notably from across the pond:

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said he has "some concerns" over US military tribunals for six men charged with involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

The US government has promised fair trials for the Guantanamo Bay inmates, who could face the death penalty.

But human rights groups say the tribunals make this impossible and that the defendants were tortured.

Mr Miliband told BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show there was "absolutely no question" that torture was illegal.

And these are our biggest allies.

The BBC's Vincent Dowd in Washington says a confession gained from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed may prove problematic as the CIA admitted using "water-boarding" - or simulated drowning - as an interrogation technique.

In answer to a question from a Jeremy Vine show listener, Mr Miliband said the UK defined water-boarding as torture, adding that "we don't... we would never use water-boarding".

Mr Miliband said: "There's absolutely no question about the UK government's commitments in respect of torture, which is illegal, and our definition of what torture is.

No question to our closest allies that waterboarding is torture and that torture is illegal. Here's what's at stake. I'll let the British Foreign Secretary say it:
And I think it's very, very important that we always assert that our system of values is different from those who attacked the US and killed British citizens on 11 September, and that's something we'd always want to stand up for.
One thing, though. Didn't he just end that sentence with a dangling preposition?

I'm just asking - the guy's British, you know.

One Hill to hold press conference today (the deadline for challenges to arena master plan)

From the Post-Gazette:
The One Hill Community Benefits Agreement Coalition has scheduled a press conference for 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, which coincides with the deadline for challenging the City Planning Commission's approval of the master plan for a new arena.

One Hill spokeswoman Jennifer England would not say whether the coalition plans to appeal the master plan approval. "We're keeping all our options open," she said. "Nothing's been taken off the table."

[snip]

There has been little progress in talks among the coalition, Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh since the Planning Commission appoved the master plan on Jan. 14. The city Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Penguins agreed to contribute $1 million each toward development of a grocery store in the neighborhood, but other demands remain unmet.
The press conference will at 1:30pm at the City-County Bldg (414 Grant St., Downtown).
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February 12, 2008

Digital Democracy

From Bob Mayo:
Digital Democracy is a special event happening here in Pittsburgh next month. This is a project I've been working on for months and I'm excited to let you know about it now.

It's a conference that will explore how the digital revolution -- including blogs, online video, websites and social media -- is changing traditional news media coverage and citizens' access to the political process.

The event includes national-caliber speakers who are coming to town on Saturday, March 15.

Its website is now online at:

http://www.spj.org/pittsburgh

Our speakers include:
• New York Times Online Politics Editor Kate Phillips, who writes for and edits The Caucus, The New York Times politics news blog.

• Newsbusters.org Executive Editor Matthew Sheffield

• MediaMatters.org Senior Fellow & Director of Special Projects Paul Waldman

• Hearst-Argyle Director of Digital Media Content Jacques Natz

• J-Lab Executive Director Jan Schaffer

• Media Bloggers Association President Robert Cox
Other speakers include former USA Today reporter Toni Locy, who's topic is "Subpoenaed For Her Sources". She's the subject of a contempt-of-court request for her refusal to identify sources who provided her information about the 2001 anthrax attacks and the subsequent investigation.
There will also be sessions on "Bloggers as Journalists and Journalists as Bloggers", on new media skills and digital literacy for reporters, and on Open Records laws.

Digital Democracy is a Society of Professional Journalists regional conference, hosted by the Pittsburgh chapter. Region 4 covers Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, but the event can draw from beyond. Its something for all journalists -- and you don't have to be a member of SPJ. In fact, given the theme, bloggers, students, and others with an interest and involvement in the conference theme are welcome to attend. The Digital Democracy website has links for online registration and there's a special rate for students and SPJ members.

If you've been wondering why I haven't been blogging as much here on the Busman's Holiday for a while, it's because I've been working on this event. I'm program chair and have been lining up the speakers. I also created the website for the event. I know some fellow journalists check out the blog here, and I want to encourage you to join us and to spread the word. This is a professional enrichment event intended everyone in news organizations across the region. Links to more specifics are on the website. I hope to see you there.

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Quid Pro Quo, Clarice.

For some reason, This story at The Burgh Report from the P-G:
A 1,200-square-foot electronic billboard will decorate the rising Grant Street Transportation Center as part of a deal between Pittsburgh officials and Lamar Advertising to trade old, paper signs for new, illuminated ones.

Because of its size and cost, the sign would normally need zoning
board and planning commission approval, but it is proceeding with neither.
reminds me of another story from the P-G:
He [Ravenstahl] promptly seized Mr. O'Connor's focus on "redding up" the city -- and the free billboard exposure, courtesy of Lamar Advertising, that came with it. Later came another series of billboards touting the city's 311 help line, also with the mayor's name and face prominently displayed.

Lamar currently has five such billboards citywide, which cost the company a total of $265 in materials and two hours of staff time, according to Stan Geier, the company's local vice president and general manager. "It is ad space that went unsold and is not displacing any paying advertisers," he wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

The signs are consistent with the company's practice of donating surplus space "as a public service to deserving organizations," he wrote.
. . . but I can't quite put my finger on why.
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Melissa Hart Comes Out Swinging!

I caught ex-Representative Melissa Hart on Pintek last night.

She's going negative early, it seems. I thought that was a curious choice given her own rather ungracious excuse for losing in 2006:

Hart says she believes she lost because of Altmire's negative ad campaign.

"I was not going to play the games. Unfortunately I think that took a toll. In retrospect, I had everyone in Washington, D.C., significant number of my colleagues, call me and say you need to cut his legs off, was the term they used," Hart said. "And you know what, you don't need to cut his legs off. He clearly did that his entire campaign, he's new at this, I that hope he doesn't do it the next time."

In the course of her conversation with Mike Pintek, she brought up this article from the Washington Post to criticize Congressman Jason Altmire. It begins with this:

Half a dozen freshman Democrats took to the House floor one late-October morning to cast their lot with Republicans.

Their actions went unpunished by the Democratic leadership that day, as they have on many other occasions in recent weeks. The symbolic gesture -- casting nay votes on approving the House Journal, essentially the minutes of the previous day -- would have no bearing on the leadership's agenda.

While they overwhelmingly support that agenda, the bloc of freshmen has begun casting votes against such minor procedural motions in an effort, Democratic sources and Republican critics say, to demonstrate their independence from their leadership. The number of votes that the potentially vulnerable newcomers to Capitol Hill cast against House leaders is tallied and watched closely by interest groups and political foes.

Good point, Altmire's one of those freshman Democrats. So how many of these votes have there been? 18:

"I'm viewed as an independent. I'm viewed as a conservative Democrat," said Rep. Jason Altmire (Pa.), the first freshman to regularly oppose his party's leadership on the journal vote.

Like several others, Altmire offered no explanation for voting against all but one of 18 roll calls on the routine measure, adding that he had no "pre-planned" rationale for the votes. "I'm certainly not going to win or lose my reelection based on my journal votes," he said.

How many votes has he cast so far? 1,226, according to the Washington Post. According to that webpage, Congressman Altmire's voted with the majority of his party 85.7% of the time.

Missy Hart's making a case for those 17 votes. Let's do some math, shall we?

If we round to the nearest integer, 85.7% of 1,226 is 1,051. So it looks like Jason Altmire has voted with his party 1,051 times. But let's see what happens when we add those 17 votes Missy Hart's so upset over.

1,051 +17=1,068.

So had Jason Altmire voted with his party on those 17 votes, he would have voted with his party 1,068 times.

That would be 87.1% of the time. By my count, that would move him up 15 spots on the list. Of more than 400 members of the House.

And that is what Missy Hart's upset over.

She probably should be upset - by the same accounting at the Washington Post, she voted a whopping 94.4% of the time with her party in the 109th Congress.

By the way, voting against the journal is not even a new idea:

"They're trying to create separation. Our guys did it in '95 and '96," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), a member of the GOP class of 1994.

At the time, freshman Republicans saw congressional popularity plummet during a budget fight that led to a series of federal government shutdowns. Fearful of being tied closely to then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), many freshmen also began voting no on the journal in a similar effort to distance themselves.

Thanks for the tip, Missy.

McCain: The Man! The Music!

A takeoff on the Obama "Yes We Can" music video:


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February 11, 2008

Photographic Proof!



Yep, that's me. Sitting in John McIntire's chair.

If you missed it (and shame on you if you did), the video can be found here.

It's a very surreal experience, watching yourself on television. I don't think I sound like that, I don't think I look like that even though I know that's my suit and tie.

On Waterboarding

From Reuters:
The controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding and used by the United States qualifies as torture, the U.N. human rights chief said on Friday.
And:

Arbour made her comment in response to a question about whether U.S. officials could be tried for the use of waterboarding that referred to CIA director Michael Hayden telling Congress on Tuesday his agency had used waterboarding on three detainees captured after the September 11 attacks.

Violators of the U.N. Convention against Torture should be prosecuted under the principle of 'universal jurisdiction' which allows countries to try accused war criminals from other nations, Arbour said.

By the way, here's a link to the UN Conventions Against Torture. According to the signatures page, the US signed (0n April 4, 1988) and ratified (on October 21, 1994) this more than a decade ago.

Here's how the UN Conventions defines torture:
For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
And here's Article VI of the Constitution (remember that?) that says that ratified treaties become U.S. Law:

All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Morning, Pittsburgh.

February 10, 2008

Jack Kelly Sunday

Remember this from last Sunday?

Jack Kelly, conservative columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tried to convince the other conservatives who read his column that Senator John McCain most definitely is not Satan's first cousin. Only time will tell whether he succeeded.

This week, he's taking another tack. This time he's criticising those conservatives who call McCain a RINO (aka "Republican In Name Only"). Our friend Jack:

The epithet is ridiculous, because it assumes that being conservative and being Republican are identical. Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower were good Republicans, but they weren't conservatives. Nor were Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Bob Dole or George H. W. Bush.

A political party is a conspiracy to obtain power, nothing more. In democratic politics there is nothing wrong with that, because the conspiracies are peaceful, open and -- in a two-party system -- moderating. For Republicans to be successful, they must embrace moderates as well as conservatives. This means moderates get to lead from time to time.

Hold on to your hats here, my friends, I think J-Kel makes some good points.

Unfortunately, however convincing I might think Kelly is, James Dobson will probably remain unconvinced. From the AP:

James Dobson, one of the nation's most prominent evangelical Christian leaders, backed Mike Huckabee's presidential bid Thursday night, giving the former Arkansas governor a long-sought endorsement as the Republican field narrowed to a two-man race.

In a statement first obtained by The Associated Press, Dobson reiterated his declaration on Super Tuesday that he could not in good conscience vote for John McCain, the front-runner, because of concerns over the Arizona senator's conservative credentials.

And a few paragraphs later:
Dobson criticized McCain for his support of embryonic stem cell research, his opposition to a federal anti-gay marriage amendment and for his temper and use of foul language. He said he'd sit out the presidential election if McCain were the nominee.
Temper and foul language? Well there's this from July of 2006.

A conservative website has launched a full-frontal attack on Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who the story says has an "irrational, explosive" temper, citing two former Republican senators and GOP aides.

At least two Democratic aides have told RAW STORY McCain has shown a similar temperament. Multiple sources have also said that McCain has a practice of leaking stories on those he doesn't get along with -- and is believed by several reporters and Senate aides to have been behind a series of leaks in the Jack Abramoff scandal. McCain's office has vehemently denied the claims.

And:

According to Newsmax, "McCain's outbursts often erupted when other members rebuffed his requests for support during his bid in 2000 for the Republican nomination for president. A former Senate staffer recalled what happened when McCain asked for support from a fellow Republican senator on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee."

"The senator explained that he had already committed to support George Bush," a former Senate staffer told the site. "McCain said ‘f— you' and never spoke to him again."

Ok, then. Back to Jack:

But the dyspeptic denizens of the Right believe in addition by subtraction. To make the GOP stronger, moderates must be calumnized and driven from it. Polemicist Ann Coulter is so angry with Mr. McCain's occasional embrace of Democratic ideas that she says she'll campaign for Democrats if Mr. McCain wins the nomination.

Ms. Coulter says this sort of thing whenever she feels she's not getting enough attention. Her position is extreme, even among the extremists. But many, brimming with self righteousness, declare they'll stay home if Mr. McCain, or Mr. Romney, or Mr. Huckabee wins the nomination. These guys (and gals) are the true RINOs.

Extreme among the extremists, Ann Coulter is still at it. Here she is from a few days ago:

On the litmus test issues of our time, only partially excluding Iraq, McCain is a liberal.

-- He excoriated Samuel Alito as too "conservative."

-- He promoted amnesty for 20 million illegal immigrants.

-- He abridged citizens' free speech (in favor of the media) with McCain-Feingold.

-- He hysterically opposes waterboarding terrorists and wants to shut down Guantanamo.

Can I take a breath now?

-- He denounced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

-- He opposes ANWR and supports the global warming cult, even posturing with fellow mountebank Arnold Schwarzenegger in front of solar panels.

The only site that would have been more appropriate for Schwarzenegger in endorsing McCain would have been in front of an abortion clinic.

Unfortunately for Jack Kelly, my guess is that St. Ann-of-the-Bulging-Laryngeal-Prominence has a larger reading audience than the P-G's former National Security correspondent.

February 8, 2008

Why do you hate America?

Apparently not only would a Clinton/Obama presidency be a "surrender to terror," it would put "prosperity and peace" at stake.

So I guess that means that a Clinton/Obama presidency would mean that we'd have a large scale terrorist attack on our watch (after ignoring any and all warnings) in which we'd sit frozen like a deer caught in the headlights when it happened, be in the middle of two wars (one civil which has increased the number of terrorists), never capture Bin Laden on our watch, have nearly 4,000 troops die on our watch, create record deficits and start a recession.

Damn, I agree! A president who'd do that would not only be the biggest piece of shit, but would also pose a real danger to our country!

(File this under: IOKIYAR -- It's OK if you are Republican.)
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Waterboarding Updates

Did you know that 99% of us Americans would support waterboarding??

That's what Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) said yesterday. from thinkprogress, here's what Smith said to Attorney General Michael Mukasey yesterday:

In regard to interrogation techniques — and I know you’re going to be asked a lot of questions about that today — I just want to express the personal opinion that I hope the administration will not be defensive about using some admittedly harsh but nonlethal interrogation techniques, even techniques that might lead someone to believe they’re being drowned even if they’re not.

My guess is that 99 percent of the American people, if asked whether they would endorse such interrogation techniques to be conducted on a known terrorist with the expectation that information that might be derived from such interrogation would save the lives of thousands of Americans, that 99 percent of the American people would support such interrogation techniques.

Think progress adds a link to this CNN story about what the American people really think:

Asked whether they think waterboarding is a form of torture, more than two-thirds of respondents, or 69 percent, said yes; 29 percent said no.

Asked whether they think the U.S. government should be allowed to use the procedure to try to get information from suspected terrorists, 58 percent said no; 40 percent said yes.

Huh. So I guess Representative Smith's guess is, well, wrong.

On waterboarding, TPM Muckraker has more on yesterday's hearings with AG Mukasey. When asked by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) if he's going start a criminal investigation:

"No, I am not," was the direct answer.

His reasoning was a repeat of his answer to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) last week. The CIA waterboarded those detainees with the authorization of a Justice Department legal opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel. So the Justice Department "cannot possibly" investigate, he said, U.S. employees for an act they committed on the basis of Justice Department advice. Such an action, he explained, would send a message that interrogators could no longer safely rely on that advice going forward.

Mukasey also refused Conyers' request to see the OLC opinions that authorized waterboarding, because they discussed techniques of what remains a "classified program." Conyers protested that every member of the committee was cleared to see top secret material, but Mukasey was unmoved, though offered to continue "ongoing discussions" with the committee -- discussions of which Conyers seemed to be unaware.

This has led David Kurtz, over at talkingpointsmemo to post:

Cynics may argue that those aren't bombshells at all, that the Bush Administration would never investigate itself in these matters. Perhaps so. But this is a case where cynicism is itself dangerous.

We have now the Attorney General of the United States telling Congress that it's not against the law for the President to violate the law if his own Department of Justice says it's not.

It is as brazen a defense of the unitary executive as anything put forward by the Administration in the last seven years, and it comes from an attorney general who was supposed to be not just a more professional, but a more moderate, version of Alberto Gonzales (Thanks to Democrats like Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer for caving on the Mukasey nomination.).

President Bush has now laid down his most aggressive challenge to the very constitutional authority of Congress. It is a naked assertion of executive power. The founders would have called it tyrannical.

So would I.