Democracy Has Prevailed.

July 31, 2006

Have a Drink with the Governor!

This was just sent to me via e-mail.

It's my understanding that you have to RSVP in order to go.
A Free event with Governor Rendell TODAY

WHAT: The Pennsylvania Young Democrats are hosting a private reception with
WHO: Governor Edward G. Rendell,
WHEN: TODAY, July 31st, from 5:30pm to 7:30pm at
WHERE: Cafe Euro, located in the USX Building on Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Join us for some one-on-one time with the governor!

This event is free and is not a fundraiser - all are welcome to attend

To rsvp for the event or join the PAYD list, email
I might go as I've never actually met the governor before.

Because Iraq has worked out so well...

From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

Here's a clip from the end of an article today in the Jerusalem Post ...
[Israeli]Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the United States that the US would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria.
And there are other ominous indications of the US pressing for expansion the Israelis don't seem to want. There's more here than the US not wanting a ceasefire before meaningful changes on the ground have happened in south Lebanon. Or at least I fear there is.


But there do appear to be forces in Washington -- seemingly the stronger ones, with Rice just a facade -- who see this whole thing as an opportunity for a grand call of double or nothing to get out of the disaster they've created in the region. Go into Syria, maybe Iran. Try to roll the table once and for all. No failed war that a new war can't solve. Condi's mindless 'birth pangs' remark wasn't just a gaffe -- or perhaps it was a gaffe in the Kinsleyan sense of inopportunely saying what you really think. That seems to be the thinking -- transformation through destabilization.

Either I'm in some kind of time warp...

...or 48 hours is a lot shorter than it used to be:
Israel Resumes Strikes After Brief Lull

July 29, 2006

And, I once shot a man just to watch him die...

Mia culpa, mia culpa, mia maxima culpa:

"No wonder, several years after the blogosphere allegedly became a people powerhouse, the country is mired even deeper in Iraq and successfully distracted by one false public alarm after another."

- Lee Siegel, The New Republic

(h/t to Ezra Klein by way of Shakespeare's Sister.)

July 28, 2006

Ten things that I have learned in the past 24 hours

So after reading every freaking article, blog post, listening to John McIntire's three hour radio extravaganza and simultaneously watching an entire Night Talk with Ann Devlin show (the first time I've watched that show in its entirety in the past, oh, three or so years) what have I learned about "The Thursday Morning Massacre" (Mayor Bob fires three top staff members from his hospital bed via speaker phone)?
1. If you're going to be in a circle, you'd best be sure to be in the inner, inner circle.

2. Being called a member of a "cabal" probably does not bode well for your current career path.

3. Given any situation that may occur, you can count on Councilman Motznik to be credited with making the most inflammatory statement.

4. Crips: Dennis Regan, Dick Skrinjar, Yarone Zober, Marlene Cassidy, Jim Ferlo, Bill Green, Doug Shields, Jim Motnik, George Specter, Scott Kunka and the Tribune-Review. UPDATE: Luke Ravenstahl

Bloods: B.J. Leber, Susan Malie, Paul Leger, Heather Arnet, James Malloy, Joe King, Mark DeSantis, Gregg Behr, James Roberts, Elsie Hillman and the Post-Gazette. UPDATE: Jim Roddey

5. You can always count on the Trib and the P-G to disagree on anything and everything (OK, already knew this one).

6. If you get fired in the Corporate World an HR person gives you an exit interview, if you get fired at City Hall you get a police escort out and a city police officer distributes photocopied fliers with your picture on it to security guards at the City-County Building.

7. Being a former driver is a surprisingly good career move for those who want to hold a political office in Pittsburgh. (On the Flip Side last night, McIntire commenting on Regan, "I remember a couple of campaigns ago he was 'the driver.'" [laughter])

8. They have a quick webmaster at City Hall.

9. No matter how screwy a situation is, The Carbolic Smoke Ball blog and Ms. Adventures on the Mon will up the screwy ante.

10. While it's great that Mayor O'Connor is having his doctors make regular progress reports to the media, it may behoove him after three weeks to meet with a reporter -- even for five minutes -- or to at least release a picture to the media.

MSM News Stories here

Pittsburgh Blogs covering this topic:

City Hall Firings: Views from both papers

Both papers, the P-G and The Tribune-Review, have editorials on yesterday's City Hall firings. It should come as no surprise that the two editorials don't exactly see eye-to-eye.

The Trib fails to include any context in its editorial (it's here). So if a Trib reader were to only read the editorial he or she would not know why the three were fired. Only that they were "disloyal machinators" in some sort of power struggle over at City Hall.

The Trib seems to be in favor of the firings. Their editorial ends with:
To paraphrase the Chinese proverb, the mayor used power to curb power. After all, Bob O'Connor is the mayor. And B.J. Leber, Susan Malie and Paul Leger weren't. [emphasis in original]
The P-G, on the other hand, does fill out some of the details. They state the case up front. Here's the very first paragraph:
Two weeks after Mayor Bob O'Connor became hospitalized for brain cancer, it's clear who is running his office. And it's not a pretty sight.
Interestingly, the Trib starts in almost the same manner - but take a look at what's missing:
Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor, hospitalized for brain cancer treatments, appears to have answered the $64,000 question about who's running things on Grant Street in his absence:

Bob O'Connor.
See that? Anyway, the P-G sums things up nicely:
Apparently trying to head off the appointment of little-known aide Yarone Zober as deputy mayor. Mr. Zober -- the mayor's policy director, a lawyer and, most important, an ally of Dennis Regan, the mayor's chief of intergovernmental affairs -- was confirmed by City Council Tuesday as the director of General Services. Although the department had been earmarked by the O'Connor administration for elimination, Mr. Zober's short-lived presence as its council-confirmed director would seem to meet the city charter's test for a later appointment as deputy mayor.

Ms. Malie, as solicitor, issued an opinion this week questioning whether council needed to approve such an appointment -- and that, evidently, was the act of perceived disloyalty that triggered yesterday's firings.
The editorial board added:
Now Mr. Regan, a longtime friend and political aide to Mr. O'Connor, is running the administration and may continue to do so, even if Mr. Zober is named deputy mayor. We can't help but feel that the "B" team is in charge.
Although it may clarify who's in command of the mayor's office, this shake-up is not good for Pittsburgh.
And so on.

While not yet taking an opinion on the firings myself (and I can not speak for the other political junkie here), I find it curious the difference of philosophy between the P-G and the Trib. The P-G offers an opinion as to whether the firings are good for the city (they think it's not a good thing) where the Trib just seems to be praising exercise of power itself.


A Rice Follow-up (from Tony Norman)

A few days ago, I posted this about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Seems that she's being set-up as the "fall-person" for at least one debacle in the Mid-East.

Tony Norman seems to agree. In today's P-G, he says:
"Dump Condi: Foreign policy conservatives charge State Dept. has hijacked Bush agenda" screamed a headline at, the web publication of the ultra-conservative Washington Times earlier this week.

The second paragraph alone contains enough hypocrisy to raise the ghost of Mark Twain for another go at it:

"The conservatives, who include Newt Gingrich, Richard Perle and leading current and former members of the Pentagon and National Security Council, have urged the president to transfer Miss Rice out of the State Department and to an advisory role. They said Miss Rice, stemming from her lack of understanding of the Middle East, has misled the president on Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict." (Italics mine).

Granted, Condi Rice is the wrong person for the job, but being ripped as "incompetent" by the likes of Gingrich, Perle and Elliot Abrams is akin to the Riddler, the Joker and the Penguin blaming the Catwoman for the sudden spike in crime in Gotham City.
Haahaahaa! I'd lean more towards Gingrich being The Joker (rather than Richard Perle) and while it is an enchanting image, I just can't see Condoleezza Rice in Michele Pfeiffer's Catsuit - but that's just me.

Go read Tony's column. He's a much better writer than I am but since I'm benching 215, I'm thinking it all evens out.

Technorati Tag: Condoleezza Rice

July 27, 2006

If you can't get enough of the Thursday Morning Massacre story..

...You should probably be listening to John McIntire on the FLIP SIDE now. 1020 AM

More on this story after here after John's show.

League of Young Voters at the Shadow Lounge

Friday, July 28th, 10 PM
Shadow Lounge
5972 Baum Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15206

Join the League of Young Voters at the Shadow Lounge to hear some awesome performers, read their new packet on how you can make a change in your community, and eat some free food? Did I mention Free FOOD and that it's at the Shadow Lounge?

Let's recap:

10 PM. Free Food. Shadow Lounge. The League of Young Voters. Eviction Notice, DJ Bonics, Anire Mosely, DJ Selecta, Omar Abdul, Ken Neely, and more artists. It'll be a good time.

Bill Clinton's "latent homosexuality"

I'm sure you've all seen this by now. But I'll post it anyway for the few who may not have.

According to Ann Coulter (Keith Olbermann's "Coultergeist"), Bill Clinton's "rampant promiscuity" is a sign of his latent homosexuality.

I kid you not. She said it on Donny Deutsch's TV show. Here's a transcript:
Deutsch: Off the air, you were talking about Bill Clinton. Is there anything you want to say about Clinton? No?

Coulter: No.

Deutsch: OK. All right. Did you find him attractive? Was that what it was?

Coulter: No!

Deutsch: You don't find him attractive?

Coulter: No. OK, fine, I'll say it on air.

Deutsch: Most women find him attractive.

Coulter: No.

Deutsch: OK, say it on air.

Coulter: I think that sort of rampant promiscuity does show some level of latent homosexuality.

Deutsch: OK, I think you need to say that again. That Bill Clinton, you think on some level, has -- is a latent homosexual, is that what you're saying?

Coulter: Yeah. I mean, not sort of just completely anonymous -- I don't know if you read the Starr report, the rest of us were glued to it, I have many passages memorized. No, there was more plot and dialogue in a porno movie.
Wait - did she just admit to watching porn? The image of Ann Coulter memorizing passages of the Starr Report is just plain creepy. The fact that she knows enough porn to be able to compare and contrast its literary merits to the Starr Report is creepier still.

Tell me again, why do people take her seriously?

In any event she does have some interesting things to say later in the interview:
No. I think anyone with that level of promiscuity where, you know, you — I mean, he didn’t know Monica’s name until their sixth sexual encounter. There is something that is — that is of the bathhouse about that.
Coulter further confuses me:
It’s reminiscent of a bathhouse. It’s just this obsession with your own — with your own essence.
And then she ends (I'd use the word "climax" here, but I graduated high school many many years ago):
Well, there is something narcissistic about homosexuality. Right? Because you’re in love with someone who looks like you. I’m not breaking new territory here, why are you looking at me like that?
Woa - something narcissistic about homosexuality?

Gee, how many gay stereotypes has she used? Gay (presumably gay male) promiscuity, gay bathhouses, gay "obsession" with one's "essence", and finally gay narcissism.

So the guy's a latent homosexual because he got blowjobs from a woman whose name he originally didn't know?

Didn't St Ann also say that he's a rapist who molested the help?

Again, why does anyone take her seriously?

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July 26, 2006

"I'm a changed person ... isn't this a face you can trust?"

Remember the old Peanuts comic strip football gag? Once a year Lucy Van Pelt would hold a football for Charlie Brown to kick and every time she'd yank it away at the last minute leaving poor old Charlie Brown flat on his back.

Well, here's a clue:
Sen. Arlen Specter = Lucy Van Pelt

The Football = Specter's criticisms of the Bush Administration and his promises of real investigations/actual consequences

Charlie Brown = Anyone who takes Specter seriously
This time around, the football is Specter's claims that he's preparing a bill to sue Bush over his use misuse of signing statements.

From the AP:
WASHINGTON - A powerful Republican committee chairman who has led the fight against President Bush’s signing statements said Monday he would have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue him in federal court.

“We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president’s acts declared unconstitutional,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor.

Every time Ol' Arlen gets all outraged at abuses by this administration, he eventually backs down, no, make that rolls over for them. (Is it Rove or someone else who's in charge of rubbing his tummy when goes back to being the good doggy?)

Let's look at the record:

Specter is alarmed at Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance, so he creates legislation to effectively repeal FISA's current requirements captulating to executive claims of power.

Specter backed away from his pledge to question executives from telecommunications companies that have allegedly been cooperating with the government's secret wiretapping program.

Specter urges Bush to come forward about Iraq data leak in April, but, as of yet, has done nothing about it.

Specter said he was considering legislation to cut off funding for the Bush administration's secret domestic wiretapping program until he gets satisfactory answers about it from the White House, but of course did nothing of the sort.

Specter declared Gonzales' explanations to date as "strained and unrealistic" and said the he believed that Bush violated the FISA law but did not have Gonzales sworn in at the hearings.

Specter backed down when the administration rejected his request to have former attorney general John Ashcroft and his former deputy, James Comey, testify about the origins of the secret wiretapping program.

And, that's just in the last six months.

Arlen doesn't just carry the water for Bush and his buddies, he rolls around in their golden showers.

If you still believe that Specter will really go after Bush on his unprecedented (in quantity and scope) use of signing statements, all I've got to say is:

I got your nose!
Yep, it's right, here! See? (That'll teach you to lean in so close to your monitor.)

If Arlen actually makes something of this suit, I'll give it back.

Secretary of State Condolezza Rice is Incompetent

Again, that's not just me sayin' that. Check it out:
Conservative national security allies of President Bush are in revolt against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying that she is incompetent and has reversed the administration’s national security and foreign policy agenda.

The conservatives, who include Newt Gingrich, Richard Perle and leading current and former members of the Pentagon and National Security Council, have urged the president to transfer Miss Rice out of the State Department and to an advisory role. They said Miss Rice, stemming from her lack of understanding of the Middle East, has misled the president on Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This is from Insight magazine. According to the wikipedia, it's:
published by The Washington Times Corporation. It was founded to be a sister publication to The Washington Times newspaper, in the mold of Newsweek 's relationship with The Washington Post, and to be a conservative alternative to Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News & World Report as a national newsweekly.
So we know what's going on here. It's more than obvious that someone's sending a message (or a warning) to the administration.

So some conservatives now think Rice is incompetent. Here's another quotation:
"The president has yet to understand that people make policy and not the other way around," a senior national security policy analyst said. "Unlike [former Secretary of State Colin] Powell, Condi is loyal to the president. She is just incompetent on most foreign policy issues."
Well, there are many things the president has yet to understand, right?

But incompetent? Well, yea. She was national security advisor in the months preceeding 9/11. Remember the President's daily briefing about how bin Laden was determinied to attack the US? Remember how she stated to Congress how no one had forseen that people would fly planes into buildings - when that was discussed as a security threat for a previous summit in Italy? Those things by themselves should have been her one-way-ticket to the unemployment line.

Now conservatives are spouting her incompentence and inexperience with BOTH Iran and North Korea. Take a look:
They have warned that Iran has been exploiting Miss Rice's inexperience and incompetence to accelerate its nuclear weapons program. They expect a collapse of her policy over the next few months.

"We are sending signals today that no matter how much you provoke us, no matter how viciously you describe things in public, no matter how many things you're doing with missiles and nuclear weapons, the most you'll get out of us is talk," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said.
Mr. Gingrich agrees and said Miss Rice's inexperience and lack of resolve were demonstrated in the aftermath of the North Korean launch of seven short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles in July. He suggested that Miss Rice was a key factor in the lack of a firm U.S. response.

"North Korea firing missiles," Mr. Gingrich said. "You say there will be consequences. There are none. We are in the early stages of World War III. Our bureaucracies are not responding fast enough. We don't have the right attitude."
In this article she's described as "inexperienced" twice and "incompetent" three times.

They're feeding on their own over there. This is gonna be fun to watch

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July 25, 2006

The Other Conventions

While Preznit Bush finally decided to "grace" the NAACP National Convention with an appearance last week (only took him five years), a couple of other events occurred this past weekend which didn't get as much play in the media:
1. Three Rivers Online has some YouTube video on the panel on Integrity and the US Electoral System at the Harlem Book Fair (broadcast live on C-SPAN 2 on Saturday) including comments by Greg Palast.

2. The National Hip Hop Political Convention took place this weekend in Chicago. Among their goals: providing training and organizational support for 1,200 Hip Hop leaders from across the country and registering over 50,000 young adults to vote before, during and after the convention. Pittsburgh was well represented there by, among others, members of the Pittsburgh League of Young Voters.

Sign the Giant Card for Bob O'Connor

The local Leukemia & Lymphoma Society will have three giant cards for Mayor Bob O'Connor around town on Wednesday for folks to sign.

If you want to sign one, the Post-Gazette has all the details including this:
The 6-foot-by-12-foot cards will be posted in PPG Plaza and U.S. Steel Plaza from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, and at The Coffee Tree Roasters in Squirrel Hill, a favorite mayoral haunt, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. They will be manned by volunteers, and all comers will be welcome to sign and write a message to the mayor
No idea if giant pens are involved.

July 24, 2006

ABA: The Constitution Is Not What The President Says It Is.

From today's Washington Post:
A panel of legal scholars and lawyers assembled by the American Bar Association is sharply criticizing the use of "signing statements" by President Bush that assert his right to ignore or not enforce laws passed by Congress.

In a report to be issued today, the ABA task force said that Bush has lodged more challenges to provisions of laws than all previous presidents combined.

The panel members described the development as a serious threat to the Constitution's system of checks and balances, and they urged Congress to pass legislation permitting court review of such statements.
The NYTimes has a somewhat harsher view:
The American Bar Association said Sunday that President Bush was flouting the Constitution and undermining the rule of law by claiming the power to disregard selected provisions of bills that he signed.

In a comprehensive report, a bipartisan 11-member panel of the bar association said Mr. Bush had used such “signing statements” far more than his predecessors, raising constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws on the ground that they infringed on his prerogatives.
Back to the Post:
Bush has vetoed only one bill since taking office, a bill approved by Congress last week relaxing his limits on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. But he has on many occasions signed bills, then issued statements reserving the right not to enforce or execute parts of the new laws, on the grounds that they infringe on presidential authority or violate other constitutional provisions.

Perhaps the most prominent example was legislation last year banning cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners at U.S. detention centers. Bush signed the bill into law after a struggle with Congress, then followed it with an official statement indicating that he might waive the ban under his constitutional authority as commander in chief, if necessary to prevent a terrorist attack."
The Times has this to say as well:
The bar association panel said the use of signing statements in this way was “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.” From the dawn of the Republic, it said, presidents have generally understood that, in the words of George Washington, a president “must approve all the parts of a bill, or reject it in toto.”

If the president deems a bill unconstitutional, he can veto it, the panel said, but “signing statements should not be a substitute for a presidential veto.”
What does the Constitution say about all this?

Article II of the Constitution describes the duties of the Executive. In section 1 of that Article we find the oath of office:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
And in section 3 we read:
...he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed...
Once he signs a bill, it becomes a law, right?

Not in Bush's America - he gets to decide what laws to follow and how they'll be followed.

Remember this is the crowd that prides itself on a very close reading of the Constitution. Because the word "privacy"can't be found in it, for instance, Roe v Wade should be abolished because it was based on a "right" that doesn't explicitly exist in the Constitution. Because the phrase "separation of church and state" can't be found in it, that means that the Government is free to mix the two.

Where is the phrase "unitary executive" found in the Constitution? "Signing Statements"?

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Compassionate Conservatism

1. Right-Wing Attacks American Evacuees: ‘Ingrates,’ ‘Whining,’ ‘Spoiled-Rotten Little Children’ More here.

2. CIVILIANS...Alan Dershowitz argues today that all those civilians being killed in Lebanon may not really be civilians after all...Says a "new vocabulary" is needed. More here.

July 23, 2006

Middle East Solution

Since the parties involved and this administration have no clue, I have a suggestion:

Sit all parties down and have them watch the series "My Fair Brady/ We're Getting Married!" a reality show with a genesis in two other reality shows (Christopher Knight, known as Peter Brady of the 70s phenomenon, The Brady Bunch, and Adrianne Curry, the first ever crowned, "America's Next Top Model," caught each others eye during VH1's Surreal Life 4...) .

No matter how fucked up they think their situation is or how fucked up they think the other side is, they will realize that no one and nothing else can be as ugly, crass, contemptible and volatile as Christopher Knight and Adrianne Curry and their hideous relationship.

Ooops, commercial break is over -- need to get back to the show!

(Hey! A girl has to watch something besides C-SPAN once in a while.)

UPDATE: Forgot "vile" and "self-absorbed."

Bush's Iraq War a FAILURE

This time, it's not just me saying it. This time it's the father of modern Conservatism, William F Buckley.

Take a look.
Buckley finds himself parting ways with President Bush, whom he praises as a decisive leader but admonishes for having strayed from true conservative principles in his foreign policy.

In particular, Buckley views the three-and-a-half-year Iraq War as a failure.

"If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced it would be expected that he would retire or resign," Buckley says. [emphasis added]
Oh if only...

July 21, 2006

Melissa Hart - expert on Stem Cell Research

It's the Melissa Hart story you probably DIDN'T see on local TV. It happened a few days ago.

Luckily the C-Span cameras captured the event and luckier still CrooksandLiars has the clip.

The setting: The floor of the United States House of Representatives. There's a discussion going on about Bush's recent veto of the stem cell bill. And the Representative Melissa Hart (with talent on loan from God) steps up to the mic and shows her scientific literacy:

Hart:I thank the gentleman from Ohio for alloting me time to speak in favor of sustaining the President’s veto. It’s been a year since this House passed the Castle-Degette bill. In that year, science–not Hollywood–has helped us to debunk the myth of a promise for embryonic stem cell research. Hollywood supports it. Science created fraudulent experiments. Before last year’s vote, they made arguments supporting embryonic stem cell research. They were coming fast and furious from our colleagues. During the debate in the Senate, the same arguments came. They cited Dr. Hwang Woo-suk of South Korea and his research. Supporters of his research said that he had cloned a human embryo; that he had found a way to produce embryonic stem cell lines that could be done routinely and efficiently. What happened later?

All of his research was debunked. The ethics of his research were called into question. It was revealed that his publications were faked, his experiments were unsuccessful, and the treatment of their egg donors as ethically grossly appalling. Mr. Speaker, I urge us to reject embryonic stem cell research as the science is not there. Since it is successful in treating patients using adult stem cells, and cord blood stem cells which we agreed to fund and the President signed and I believe we should support that and I yield back.

At which point Diana DeGetter (D-Colo) educates our Missy:

Of course the gentle-lady from Pennsylvania refers to the South Korea experiment which was not embryonic stem cell research rather it was somatic cell nuclear transfer, not at issue today…

The interesting thing to note is how much spinning Missy was doing. As background, let's take a look at the NYTimes' summary of Dr Hwang Woo Suk's problems:

Dr. Hwang Woo Suk published a paper in the journal Science that claimed his team had successfully obtained stem cells from cloned human embryos. But allegations from co-workers that he had falsified data followed and he later resigned from Seoul National University. A university panel investigated Dr. Hwang's results and announced that he had fabricated data. News about Hwang Woo Suk, including commentary and archival articles, published in The New York Times appears below.

See that? He got into trouble because he fabricated the data about how he obtained the stem cells. This, obviously, has nothing to do with stem cell research itself.

And Missy let the world know that she didn't know the difference.

Then there's the addition of "Hollywood." Honestly I don't know what the heck that's all about. "science not Hollywood has helped us debunk the myth of the promise of embryonic stem cell research"?? When did Hollywood get into the story?

"Stop This Shit"

Fun for a Friday!

Paul Hipp at The Huffington Post puts Chimpy's words to music:

"Stop This Shit"
(Not work friendly)

Been There, Done That

JULY 2006:

Bill Kristol Suggests People of Iran Would Embrace U.S. Attack, Triggering Regime Change

APRIL 2003:

BUY TOM TOMORROW'S BOOK HERE (He knows the future!)

Judge refuses to dismiss NSA lawsuit

With the world on fire, it's easy to overlook some big stories.

Glenn Greenwald has one here:
The Bush adminstration suffered an enormous defeat today, as a federal district court denied its motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against AT&T, which alleges that the administration's NSA warrantless eavesdropping program (and AT&T's cooperation with it) is illegal. Most significantly, the district court, which is in the Northern District of California, rejected the administration's claim that allowing the litigation to proceed would jeopardize the disclosure of "state secrets," a doctrine which the administration has repeatedly exploited to prevent judicial review of its conduct. Traditionally, courts almost always defer to the executive's invocation of that claim and accept the President's claim that national security requires dismissal of the case. But this time, the court rejected that claim.

July 20, 2006

Santorum Push Poll Update!

As I blogged here, I was push polled for Rick Santorum yesterday. After I wrote that post, I sent the following email to Venture Data:

Subj: I got push polled for Santorum today!
Date: 7/19/2006 10:36:58 PM Eastern Daylight Time

I read your policy on "push polling" and if you're the company that showed up on my caller ID as "Venture Data3, 541-868-1309" Then you may want to review your own stated policies.

More here:


Jeff Call at Venture Data emailed me back the following:

Subj: RE: I got push polled for Santorum today!
Date: 7/20/2006 2:03:49 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

FYI A GREAT article on push polls.

The article made some good points, but I took the poll and I know exactly how slimy it was so I decided to look a little deeper.

I already wondered what kind of "telephone collections experts" would feel the need to not only dedicate an entire page to their policy on "push polling," but had a link to that page prominently placed on their home page.

I mean, isn't this the equivalent to a fast food web site announcing their policy on "not spitting in your food" on their home page? Or, a law firm featuring the phrase "we're not shysters!!" on their home page?

So I decided to do a little googleling and see how other firms who do political polling handle this issue.

Guess what I found?

No surprise to me: they never mentioned "push polling" anywhere on their sites. Here's a random sample:
Q. So why does Venture Data doth protest too much?
A. Because I'm not the first person who's accused them of push polling.

Here's what appeared in last week's Philadelphia Inquirer:

In 7th District, push polling comes to shove

It's going to be a long campaign season in the Seventh Congressional District, judging by opening telephone salvos against U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon and his Democratic opponent, Joe Sestak.

Dennis Berry of West Chester said that Venture Data L.L.C., a Salt Lake City polling company, asked him a series of negatively framed questions about Sestak, including one he described as outlandish. Berry said he was asked if he would be more or less likely to vote for Sestak if he knew Sestak "had an opportunity to capture Osama bin Laden in Sudan and passed."

Sestak, a retired Navy vice admiral, served as a National Security Council official in the Clinton White House. He said he had heard about the phone calls, but not the details of the message - and nothing about bin Laden.

Venture Data didn't return phone calls. Michael Puppio, Weldon's campaign manager, said that the polling company was not working for the Weldon campaign.
Wow! A twofer!

They managed to "push" and "Swiftboat" at the same time! (Hat Tip to PA-7 Watch blog, The Daily Sandwich, and The Swing State Project for the link to the article.)

There's even more on Venture Data at Green Mountain Daily (GMD).

GMD refers to Venture Data as "controversial Utah firm frequented by the GOP and implicated in scandal..."

This time the polling is being done on the behalf of Republican Rich Tarrant in his Senate race against Congressman Bernie Sanders in Vermont. Respondents are asked questions like, would still they support Sanders after knowing he "voted to not allow rape victims to know if their assailants are HIV positive?"

GMD has a link to other Venture Data work including:

Wisconsin 2002
Lautenschlager Demands End to Biskupic's Illegal 'Push Polling'

Madison. The floundering Attorney General campaign of Vince Biskupic reached a new low after reports of "push polling" calls surfaced Sunday, bought and paid for by the Biskupic campaign to smear the reputation of Democratic Attorney General candidate and former federal prosecutor Peg Lautenschlager.

"These intentionally deceptive calls distort Peg's exceptional record of public service and keeping communities safe and families secure across Wisconsin," said Lautenschlager communications director Scot Ross. "First, Vince Biskupic promised corporate contributors he would look the other way on white collar crime, then Vince Biskupic compiles a Nixonian 'Enemies List,' which includes educators and those supporting the right to choose. Now, Vince Biskupic is flat out lying about Peg's record to divert attention from his unethical dealings."

Washington, 2004
I was Just Polled

"If you knew that Mark Sidran was endorsed by Governor Locke, all the Democratic county attorneys general, and talk show host Al Franken, would you vote for him?"

Missouri, 2004 (Link is for St. Joseph News-Press search page -- no direct link available)
Rucker maligned by phone survey; Black denies role

Some South Side residents say a purported political phone survey conducted last week was actually a negative campaign tactic aimed at Democratic 29th Missouri House District candidate Martin Rucker. ...


On its Web site, Venture Data says it “has never conducted nor participated in what
is commonly referred to as ‘push polling,’” a position company general manager

Jeff Call reiterated.“If we were involved, I can guarantee it was not a push poll,” he

Finally, GMD has this to add about Venture data:

In fact, the firm was embroiled in controversy a few years back when Pennsylvania Republican House Majority Leader John Perzel used his taxpayer-funded expense account to have Venture (and many other firms) do a hit job on a Democratic target:
Perzel paid $42,000 to Venture Data, a Salt Lake City polling firm, in December. His spokesman said pollsters called 800 Pennsylvania residents and asked them "public policy" questions, but that spokesman would not release the actual questions. Jeff Call, the company's general manager, did not return numerous phone calls seeking comment.
Now we don't know who actually commissioned the Lil Ricky poll (and I doubt we ever will), but whether it was the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Voting Rights for Blastocysts Now!, or Lil Ricky himself, we think it's the perfect match of vendor and client.

A rabbi, a nun, and a reverend walk into a city ethics hearing board...

OK, stop me if you've heard this one before...

Three out of the five persons chosen for Pittsburgh's reactivated Ethics Hearing Board are religious professionals.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm sure that they are all highly ethical people but call me a goddamned, cranky, old atheist for having a visceral reaction to this all too automatic equating of religion with ethics -- especially in a governmental setting. (see world history/current events).

According to the Post-Gazette:
The Ethics Hearing Board has the power to investigate city officials and employees for violations of the city code
I really have no idea why religious professionals who are more concerned with the ethics involved in saving souls are particularly qualified to judge city code violations.

At least one of the board members is a lawyer. Make all the jokes you want to about ethics and lawyers, but that pick does seem a hell of a lot more relevant than the clergy members chosen.

Santorum Misleads - again

And this is not me saying it. It's Capitalwire (subscription required, but you can get a free trial offer):
A Santorum campaign press release citing a Capitolwire story that originally ran Thursday is a little misleading.
See? They say it right there.

Here's Lil Ricky's press release. And the misleading parts:
Pittsburgh -- In an article that ran in Capitolwire late yesterday, Jon Delano, political editor at KDKA-TV, said something that the Santorum campaign and media outlets have been saying for some time: "What [the public] care[s] about is information and whether the candidate is perceived to be avoiding tough questioning and stating positions on the issues." (Christopher Lilienthal, "Santorum campaign keeps pressure on Casey to debate," Capitolwire, July 13, 2006)

Vince Galko, campaign manager for Santorum 2006, said, "I wonder if Bobby Casey will heed Jon Delano's words. Casey's been avoiding the issues and declining to comment on the tough issues since entering the race for the U.S. Senate. Casey claims he's providing Pennsylvanians with his positions, but if he was really committed to sharing his views, he would agree to a series of debates, especially when you consider the hours that Senators debate on the floor of the Senate on just one issue. The voters of our Commonwealth deserve to hear detailed positions from both candidates. Perhaps now, Casey Jr. will take Jon Delano's advice, alter his campaign strategy, start talking about the issues in detail and agree to debate Rick Santorum." [emphasis added]
And this is what Capitalwire says about this whole thing:
In a story about debate challenges issued by Sen. Rick Santorum to Democratic challenger Bob Casey Jr., Pittsburgh political analyst Jon Delano told Capitolwire: "Nobody cares whether Casey avoids Santorum. The question is whether Casey is avoiding the public and avoiding tough questioning by the media on behalf of the public.

“I think every candidate running behind wants a lot of debates. That’s classic Politics 101. But the public really doesn’t care about the debates. What they care about is information and whether the candidate is perceived to be avoiding tough questioning and stating positions on the issues.”

The Santorum release, issued Friday, quotes Delano as telling Capitolwire: "What [the public] care[s] about is information and whether the candidate is perceived to be avoiding tough questioning and stating positions on the issues."

So what's the big deal? Well, Santorum campaign manager Vince Galko goes on to say if Casey “was really committed to sharing his views, he would agree to a series of debates, especially when you consider the hours that senators debate on the floor of the Senate on just one issue. The voters of our commonwealth deserve to hear detailed positions from both candidates. Perhaps now, Casey Jr. will take Jon Delano's advice, alter his campaign strategy, start talking about the issues in detail, and agree to debate Rick Santorum."

But didn't Delano say few people care about debates? The Santorum campaign was a little misleading by omitting the key parts of the Delano quote in its release and then offering its own version of what Delano was saying. [emphasis added]
A little misleading? By omitting an entire sentence about debates, they changed the complete tone of Delano's remarks. It was spin of a pretty high order. I wonder what Jon Delano thinks of all this.

But it's pretty much par for the course for the campaign that out right lied about a previous KDKA report. If you need a refresher course on Rick Santorum's interaction with reality, read this.

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Message to Pittsburgh City Council President Luke Ravenstahl

Dear Mr. Ravenstahl:

This is Tonya Payne, Councilperson for City Council District 6:

This is Twanda Carlisle, Councilperson for City Council District 9:

Despite both being black women they are not, in fact, the same person.

Perhaps for the sake of cover, you should confuse the names of some of the white male city council members sometime as you have done repeatedly with Ms. Payne and Ms. Carlisle.


Your Friends at 2pj

July 19, 2006

I got PUSH POLLED for Tricky Ricky Santorum today!

Wikipedia's definition of a "push poll" is:
A push poll is a political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll. Push polls are generally viewed as a form of negative campaigning.


Push polling has been condemned by the American Association of Political Consultants.
The poll started out innocently enough, but I started to have my doubts when one of the initial questions was how likely would I be to vote for Carl Romanelli, the Green Party candidate, if I heard that he was the only pro choice candidate running for Senator.

Midway through the rather lengthy survey, they asked how do the following attributes accurately describe Santorum. There were about ten or so and only two were negative: "doesn't represent people like me" and "is out of touch." I guess not even Ricky's supporters think that associating these qualities with Tricky Ricky could put ideas in people's minds that weren't already there. There was no corresponding list for Casey (or Romanelli).

But of course, they saved the best for last. There were ten or twelve questions that were the real "push" as in "pushing" voters away from Casey. They would read a statement and you were to answer if that statement made you more likely to vote for Santorum or Casey. All of the statements were Rick-positive and Bob-negative along the lines of "Santorum wants to insure that terrorist don't creep across our border, but Casey wants to let millions of aliens in. Would knowing this make you more likely to vote for Santorum or Casey?"


After the second or third question like this, I interrupted the interviewer and said to her, Jesus! This is such a push poll! You know the definition of push poll, don't you?"

She responded with, "Ma'am, I'm just doing my job."

Yeah, she knew too and because I've been on the other end of the phone for more surveys/polls than I can count, I let her finish it. Besides, it keeps them tied up with me instead of someone who might not be in on the "joke."

My Caller ID displayed the following info for this call:

"Venture Data3, 541-868-1309"

Geez, Ricky/Ricky's buddies! Can't you at least push poll from this state? That's an area code for Oregon. You'd at least think he could have went with a Virginia company...

Anyway, googling "Venture Data3" only got me to a page where people bitched about how many calls they received from that number. However, googling "Venture Data" lead me to VentureData Telephone Collection Experts. Venture Data does have a call center located in OREGON (Remember, the call had an Oregon area code).

And get this, if they are the same "Venture Data" who called me, they need to reread their own stated policy on push polls:
Our Policy Regarding Push Polls

Venture Data L.L.C. is a survey research company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The company operates call centers located in Eugene, OR and Spokane, WA. We, the ownership and staff of Venture Data, are committed to providing our clients with accurate consumer and voter opinion data. We use industry standard scientific methodologies and practices for telephone based survey research to collect opinion data.

We recognize that in the heat of highly charged election campaigns tempers will flare and accusations of impropriety are likely to fly.

In light of this, we want to make it clear that Venture Data L.L.C. has never conducted nor participated in what is commonly referred to as "push polling." Our activities are strictly limited to conducting telephone survey research wherein we gather the opinions of a limited number of representative voters and deliver that data to our clients. We adhere to strict methodological standards. [emphasis added]
Just to be super clear on all this I've worked for market research firms that did political polling (as an interviewer, monitor, editor, head supervisor and coding director), as well as being an interviewer for NBC's Election Division in the mid 80's (we shared the floor with the writers for Saturday Night Live -- Dennis Miller was a prick even back then) so I KNOW A PUSH POLL WHEN I SEE ONE. And, kiddies, this was one PUSHY POLL!

I also know that doing push polls is a real sign of DESPERATION.

I'd love to know who was paying for this piece of tripe "poll." Wouldn't you?

UPDATE: Coming soon!
"Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 19:01:09 PM MDT
A controversial Utah firm frequented by the GOP and implicated in scandal is push polling this evening for Rich Tarrant in Vermont."


More Things to Do!

Senator Ferlo Invites You to a Town Hall

When: Wednesday, July 19th from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Where: Union Project's Great Hall, 801 North Negley Avenue in Highland Park

"On July 19th, I will be hosting, along with organizers at CODEPINK Pittsburgh, a Town Hall Meeting that will be the regional installment of the Center for Constitutional Rights' National Teach-In on Articles of Impeachment.

We will watch the documentary, HOW TO IMPEACH A PRESIDENT, followed by a discussion moderated by Jules Loebel, a Vice President of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Join me, Wednesday, July 19th from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the Union Project's Great Hall, 801 North Negley Avenue in Highland Park.

Visit to read how this Town Hall Meeting is the latest in a continuing effort to educate, advocate, and raise the public debate surrounding the accountability of the Bush Administration. For more information call (412) 389-3216 or (412) 363-8683.

I look forward to seeing you at what promises to be a spirited evening of debate and discussion."

ACLU Town Hall Meeting on Abuse of Power

When: Thursday, July 20th, 7 p.m.
Where: First Unitarian Church, 605 Morewood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA

Join the ACLU and your fellow citizens for a town hall meeting about the ongoing abuse of executive power - and what we can do to fight back. Featuring: Greg Nojeim Associate Director and Chief Legislative Council, ACLU Washington National Office; Doug Shields Pittsburgh City Councilman, Co-Sponsor of anti-PATRIOT Act Resolution; and Thomas Farrell Former U.S. Attorney, partner at Reich, Alexander, Reisinger and Farrell .

Q & A to follow.

Free and open to the public - Handicapped Accessible
For more information, please contact us at 412-681-7736.

ACLU meeting link.

Voter Registration at North Side's Celebration in the Park!

When: Saturday, July 22nd, From 11:00 AM until 8:00 PM
Where: Allegheny Commons Park, North Side, Pittsburgh

A Celebration in the Park, one of Central North Side's premier summer events, has agreed to waive their fee sso that non-partisan voter registration can be provided all day. This is a large festival with a diverse attendence - and the weather looks perfect!

They need volunteers to work 2-hour shifts starting at 11:00 AM. All materials will be provided ~ and if you've never done voter registration, don't worry, they'll show you the ropes. It's easy and we'll show you what you need to do!

Let Janis Williams know if you can help - shoot her a note at or call her at 412-680-1626 to sign up to volunteer or if you want more information!

Global Solutions Pittsburgh/Project Educate Happy Hour
Help Kids in Zambia!

When: Tuesday, July 25, 6:00 - 8:00 pm
Where: Fire House Lounge, 2216 Penn Avenue, Strip District

Help raise awareness, funds and support for Global Solutions Pittsburgh and Project Educate. Join Global Solutions and Project Educate on the deck of the Firehouse Lounge in the Strip District for a summertime happy hour.

Enjoy half price appetizers and drink specials.

Proceeds will help support basic education in Zambia and advocacy efforts here in Pittsburgh.

Call 412-471-7852 for more details or click here.

Collier Twp. Democrats Social!

When: Thursday, July 27th, from 7-9 pm
Where: RPM's Bar and Restaurant at 1020 Washington Pike, Bridgeville, PA 15017
(about 15 minutes from downtown).

The Collier Twp. Democrats, who enjoy a 24% overall voter registration over Republicans, want to make sure they are not another sububurb that continues to trend more and more Republican. District 1 has a Republican majority.

So, they are having a party to show their solidarity and support of Democratic Values! FYI - this is part of Mustio's district.

They are having a Meet-N-Greet Social! This event is free and open to all Democrats. They are having a 50/50 raffle and door prizes !

There is a cash bar, and appetizers are included.

Directions: I-79 south to exit # 55, kirwin heights/heidelberg, right onto Rt. 50, washington pike, left at 3rd. traffic light and left into RPM's (there is a car on roof of the building!)

Please let them know if you can attend. Contact Mary Lou Kientz at 412-279-9408 or

"No Sweatshops, Bucco!" Makes "The Nation"

The onine edition of The Nation covered our own local activists efforts to ensure that Major League Baseball plays fair.

The article claims a major win for The Pittsburgh Anti-Sweatshop Community Alliance (PASCA).

It also quotes many local activists including Tim Stevens (who represented PASCA in the negotiations with MLB officials and who chairs the Black Political Empowerment Project) and PASCA members Celeste Taylor and Kenneth Miller.

It also mentions that Pittsburgh City Council passed a resolution urging "companies and organizations that...have benefited from the continuous support of this behave in a way...consistent with the morals and values of the people who provided them with the opportunity to succeed" on the morning of the All Star Game.

That resolution was sponsored by Councilmembers Twanda Carlilse (District 9) and Tonya Payne (District 6).

(h/t to Mark Rauterkus for the link as I usually read the hard copy of The Nation and missed this web-only article.)

Dan Simpson Reviews The G-8 Summit

Take a look.

He begins.
The summit of the G-8 countries -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, with China, India, Brazil and other countries invited as observers -- was supposed to have as its agenda energy security, infectious diseases and education.

All of those subjects are of fundamental interest to the populations of the countries whose leaders met in St. Petersburg. "Energy security" for Americans means knowing that the price of gas is not going to be pushed up further by the soaring price of oil, like the record-high $78 a barrel. "Infectious diseases" means bird flu, still flying our direction, with the U.S. government no doubt as well prepared for it as it was for Hurricane Katrina. The name of the Department of Homeland Security becomes increasingly ironic by the day as that band of geniuses busies itself with such matters as suspending from work cafeteria ladies in federal buildings Downtown. "Education" is that collection of knowledge and skills that keeps our jobs from being outsourced to Bangalore. [emphasis added]
Band of geniuses? Even in sarcasm, Simpson speaks too highly of that particular department. But I digress. Here's more.
Administration spokespersons continued to promise that Mr. Bush was going to take advantage of his summit-related meetings with Mr. Putin to rattle his cage on democracy in Russia. The irony was that the very flaws Mr. Bush sees in Mr. Putin -- increasing the arbitrary power of the presidency, disregard of the constitution, pushing the legislature to the margins, undercutting the power of the courts and seeking to weaken the media -- are precisely the points of criticism Mr. Bush hears about himself from his own opposition.
Good one. Anything more ridiculous than George Bush lecturing another world leader on "increasing the arbitrary power of the presidency" or "disregard of the constitution"?
Completing the verbal rout of Mr. Bush at St. Petersburg, someone left a microphone turned on while he chatted at lunch Monday with other leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In what sounded like teen-speak, including an obscenity and an inaccurate suggestion that Syria, rather than Iran, is Hezbollah's principal international supporter, Mr. Bush made it clear that he was eager to see the summit end so he could go home.
Well, it'll be August soon - Another 28-day vacation is at hand and there's brush to clear in Crawford!

July 18, 2006

We'll say it again: IMPEACH

Almost exactly twenty-two years ago, on July 29, 1974 the House Judiciary Committee voted 27-11 on the First Article of Impeachment for Richard Milhous Nixon (there were a few other articles, by the way). Section 4 of Article One said that Nixon stood accused of:
interfering or endeavouring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Congressional Committees;
Today, the AP is reporting that:
President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation of the anti-terror eavesdropping program that intercepts Americans' international calls and e-mails, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday.
Here's more from the AP:
Bush refused to grant security clearances for department investigators who were looking into the role Justice lawyers played in crafting the program, under which the National Security Agency listens in on telephone calls and reads e-mail without court approval, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Without access to the sensitive program, the department's Office of Professional Responsibility closed its investigation in April.

"It was highly classified, very important and many other lawyers had access. Why not OPR?" Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., the committee chairman, asked Gonzales.

"The president of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales replied.
The president made the decision to refuse the security clearances - and that stopped a DOJ investigation. Or as Murray Waas put it:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today that President Bush personally halted an internal Justice Department investigation into whether Gonzales and other senior department officials acted within the law in approving and overseeing the administration's domestic surveillance program.
Waas adds:
The investigation, by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, was halted when lawyers who were going to conduct the investigation were denied the security clearances that would have allowed them to view classified documents related to the surveillance program. President Bush made the decision to deny the security clearances for the investigators, Gonzales said in his testimony today.
So the documents were already AT the DOJ.

Of course Tony Snow (formerly of Fox "News") spun it as best he could (from the AP):
The president did not consider the Justice unit that functions as a legal ethics watchdog to be the "proper venue," Snow said.

"What he was saying is that in the case of a highly classified program, you need to keep the number of people exposed to it tight for reasons of national security, and that's what he did," Snow said.
So this administration (the same administration that lied about Iraq's WMD and that leaked information about a CIA operative to punish that operative's husband) thinks they get to decide the "proper venue" for an ethics probe? On what basis? Trust? Guess again, my friends.

And I could be wrong, but didn't Tony Snow just say that the reason Bush denied those security clearances is because you can't trust the investigators from the United States Department of Justice to keep a secret?

What incredibly huge balls. We're talking gargantuan testicles, the kind that make it difficult to sit down.

Waas continues:
A senior Justice official said that the refusal to grant the clearances was "unprecedented" and questioned whether the clearances were denied because investigators might find "misconduct by those who were attempting to defeat" the probe from being conducted. The official made the comments without knowing that Bush had made the decision to refuse the clearances.
Unprecedented - yeow!

We'll paraphrase John Dean - it's worse than Watergate, because he's worse than Nixon.

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I could have had a G-8!

With all that's going on in the world, we've been a bit remiss in our coverage of the important G-8 Summit. In case you too missed any of it, here's a summary:

1. George Bush loves him some pig

2. Putin vs. Bush -- Oh Snap!

BUSH: I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world, like Iraq, where there’s a free press and free religion. And I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia will do the same thing. I fully understand, however, that there will be a Russian-style democracy.

PUTIN: We certainly would not want to have same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, quite honestly.

BUSH: Just

(h/t to Think Progress)

3. Open mic (and food in open mouth) night

Full transcript here.

BUSH: "Right . . . What about Kofi? That seems odd. I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything else happens."
BLAIR: "I think the thing that is really difficult is you can't stop this unless you get this international presence agreed." . . .
Bush: Yeah
Blair: I don't know what you guys have talked about but as I say I am perfectly happy to try and see what the lie of the land is but you need that done quickly because otherwise it will spiral
Bush: I think Condi is going to go pretty soon
Blair: But that's that's that's all that matters. But if you, you see it will take some time to get that together
Bush: Yeah, yeah
Blair: But at least it gives people...
Bush: It's a process, I agree. I told her your offer to...
Blair:'s only if I mean... you know. If she's got a..., or if she needs the ground prepared as it were... Because obviously if she goes out, she's got to succeed, if it were, whereas I can go out and just talk
Bush: You see, the ... thing is what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over
Blair: [inaudible]
Bush: [inaudible]
Blair: Syria
Bush: Why?
Blair: Because I think this is all part of the same thing
Bush: Yeah.
Blair: What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way...
Bush: Yeah, yeah, he is sweet
Blair: He is honey. And that's what the whole thing is about. It's the same with Iraq
Bush: I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to Bashad [Bashir Assad] and make something happen
Blair: Yeah
Bush: [inaudible]
Bush: We are not blaming the Lebanese government
Blair: Is this...? (at this point Blair taps the microphone in front of him and the sound is cut.)

4. President Good Touch Bad Touch

Hmmm...Would he treat a male Head of State that way?

Video here.

(h/t to Mash from Daily KOS)

Frankly, it could have been worse. We're surprised he didn't manage to drop his pants and set his hair on fire.

Heard on KDKA yesterday

Some of the wisdom of our own bloviator, Fred Honsberger.
  • On Israel and terrorism, he said the only reason we were attacked on 9/11 was our support of Israel.
  • He repeated Lil Ricky's screed that WMD had been discovered in Iraq.
  • And finally he said he had little doubt that Israel would win this conflict. How did he know? "Read your Bible." He told a caller.
So good to know. Makes me feel so much safer.

Gingrich and WW III

Newt's been quoted recently as saying:
We're in the early stages of what I would describe as a Third World War, and frankly our bureaucracies are not responding fast enough, and we don't have the right attitude about this.
And he's written about it at Human Events Online:
I am now firmly convinced that the world confronts a situation that is frighteningly similar to a Third World War, one every bit as serious and dangerous as the two great conflicts of the 20th Century.
But he tells a different tale in Seattle. As the Ferengi saying goes, "War is good for business." And for Newt Gingrich "business" also means "politics."

From the Postman column in Seattle:
Gingrich said he is "very worried" about Republicans facing fall elections and says the party must have the "nerve" to nationalize the elections and make the 2006 campaigns about a liberal Democratic agenda rather than about President Bush's record.
There is a public relations value, too. Gingrich said that public opinion can change "the minute you use the language" of World War III. The message then, he said, is "'OK, if we're in the third world war, which side do you think should win?"
The minute you use the language of World War III.

If this was a report card, Bush would fail every subject

As with all AOL polls that we cite, we note that this one is not scientific (however, there was a time when he used to ace these things).

July 17, 2006

Super Conservative Prof Explains How Bush is Undermining Our System of Checks and Balances

University of Chicago Law Professor Richard Epstein is a conservatives' conservative. He's a fellow at both the Hoover and Cato Institutes and wrote a book "How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution," that is as unkind to liberals as it's title suggests.

So what does the Professor have to say in yesterday's Chicago Tribune about Bush's extremely aggressive use of signing statements?
What is new and troubling is the extraordinary frequency with which President Bush has used these statements, and the unorthodox way he uses them. The recent spate of presidential signing statements constitutes a threat to our country's system of checks and balances as surely as the Bush administration actions that the Hamdan ruling struck down did.


President Bush dishonors traditions in his aggressive use of signing statements as one way among many to circumvent the congressional and judicial checks built into the Constitution.


But put the point in reverse: If the presidential signing statements are no big deal, why does the president make them? One reason is that it skews the administration of a statute by presidential subordinates before a matter gets into court. A second--and more troubling--point relates to the larger question of the role of judicial review.

Modern understanding of judicial review requires the executive branch to take its marching orders from the Supreme Court. Signing statements, I fear, could be the opening wedge to a presidential posture that judicial decisions may limit the president's ability to use courts to enforce his policies, but cannot stop him from acting unilaterally. On this theory, the president could continue to order wiretaps and surveillance in opposition to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act after a court had determined that he has exceeded his powers--he just couldn't use the evidence acquired in court. Different branches of government have different views of the law, yet the executive marches on. A major check on executive power goes by the boards. [emphasis added]

(h/t to pontificator at Daily KOS)

July 15, 2006

I had no idea babies read this blog...

...But apparently they do:

John Dean and contemporary "conservatism"

Found this at the dailykos:
Tonight former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean discussed his intriguing new book "Conservatives without Consciences" as the lead story on Keith Olbermann. In it he described how his discussions with the late Barry Goldwater, the nominal father of the modern conservative movement, evolved from talking about just how far afield that movement has grown to a discussion of how authoritarianism has crept in and taken over the Republican Party.

Sparked by Goldwater, Dean continued to research on the subject with various scholars looking into the psychology of authorianism and found a wealth of information on the subject.

Acording to his findings, a vast majority of Conservatives are drawn into the Leader/Follower archetype, where the Leaders are considered infallable, and the loyalty of the Followers is completely unshakable. About "23% of the populace falls into the follower category" said Dean. "These people are impervious" to fact, rationality and reality. And their "Numbers are growing".[emphasis added]
I guess when you have 23% of the population all feeling that the leader is considered infallable, that explains the "The President is never wrong." line discussed here by the Other Political Junkie a few days ago (just scroll down - you'll find it).

It also explains the utter lack of rational thinking displayed by members of that particularly odious segment of the body politic. In order to maintain loyalty to the infallable leader, everything else has to be bent around it. So Bush could not have lied about WMD - Even with no evidence, it's obvious that they were moved to the Bekaa valley before the war. Or they really WERE found recently - only the lib'rul media won't let you know about it. Bush's poll numbers don't reflect reality - the polling companies show their true colors by withholding the Republican/Democrat distribution of the people polled. It's obvious they're skewing the numbers to damage our president. And so on.

Reality isn't what it is - it's the opposite.

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Arlen Specter's "Compromise"

From Today's Washington Post Editorial Page:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has cast his agreement with the White House on legislation concerning the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance as a compromise -- one in which President Bush accepts judicial review of the program. It isn't a compromise, except quite dramatically on the senator's part. Mr. Specter's bill began as a flawed but well-intentioned effort to get the program in front of the courts, but it has been turned into a green light for domestic spying. It must not pass. [emphasis added]
I guess whatever loony-bug has scrambled our junior Senator's brain, it's also touched our other senator - the supposed "rational" one. The editorial also says:
The bill's most dangerous language would effectively repeal FISA's current requirement that all domestic national security surveillance take place under its terms. The "compromise" bill would add to FISA: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to limit the constitutional authority of the President to collect intelligence with respect to foreign powers and agents of foreign powers." It would also, in various places, insert Congress's acknowledgment that the president may have inherent constitutional authority to spy on Americans. Any reasonable court looking at this bill would understand it as withdrawing the nearly three-decade-old legal insistence that FISA is the exclusive legitimate means of spying on Americans. It would therefore legitimize whatever it is the NSA is doing -- and a whole lot more.[emphasis added]
Wait a minute. So the law as it stands now says that all domestic national security surveillance has to take place under FISA? But that would mean that whatever's (still) happening over at the NSA is then...uh...illegal?

Damn that liberal media for keeping this violation of the law from the people!

Here's the end:
This bill is not a compromise but a full-fledged capitulation on the part of the legislative branch to executive claims of power. Mr. Specter has not been briefed on the NSA's program. Yet he's proposing revolutionary changes to the very fiber of the law of domestic surveillance -- changes not advocated by key legislators who have detailed knowledge of the program. This week a remarkable congressional debate began on how terrorists should face trial, with Congress finally asserting its role in reining in overbroad assertions of presidential power. What a tragedy it would be if at the same time, it acceded to those powers on the fundamental rights of Americans.
Thanks, Senator Spector. Thanks for all your help protecting our rights.

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(D) Rick's S&M safe word is "applesauce."

Jon Stewart tests your Rick Santorum knowledge (video)

July 14, 2006

WPXI: Stupidity or Bias?

I caught this on PCNC's repeat of WPXI's evening broadcast:

Co-anchor David Johnson was reporting on Israel's bombing of Hezbollah's headquarters. By way of background, he said that Hezbollah had kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, and that:
Israel started bombing Hezbollah.
That is either very bad shorthand or bias.

Yes, Israel is bombing Hezbollah, but they are also attacking Lebanon's infrastructure and receiving not a little criticism for that (even from Sen. John W. Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Armed Services Committee).

WPXI now has three platforms to put out this drivel: WPXI, PCNC and FOX 53.

It sounds better in the original German

Sometimes it's better when you can't really blog for a day or two because you're able to see a bigger story from a lot of items that you may have blogged on separately.

So what's the bigger picture this week?

As the world goes to hell in a handbasket, I've come across some articles that help to show why.

First up, a 50 year academic study in which the data shows that conservatives are much more likely to follow authoritarian leaders. Former Nixon counsel John Dean discussed it with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann:
OLBERMANN: There is an extraordinary amount of academic work that you quote in the book. A lot of it is very unsettling. It deals with psychological principles that are frightening and may have faced other nations at other times. In German and Italy in the 30's, come into mind in particular. But, how does it apply now? To what degree should it scare us and to what degree is it something that might be forestalled?

DEAN: To me, it was something of an epiphany to run into this information. First, I'd never read about it before. I sort of worked my way into it until I found it. It's not generally known out there, what's going on. I think, from the best we can tell, these people -- the followers -- a few of them will change their ways when the realize that they are doing -- not even aware of what they are doing. The leaders, those inclined to dominate, they're not going to change for a second. They're going to be what they are. So, by and large, the reason I write about this is, I think we need to understand it. We need to realize that when you take a certain step of vote a certain way, heading in a certain direction, where this can end up. So, it's sort of a cautionary note. It's a warning as to where this can go. Other countries have gone there.
They go on to discuss how having a designated enemy and relentless fear mongering aids leaders in keeping their authoritarian postion -- drawing in those in the Mushy Middle along with the True Belivers. And how many True Belivers are there in this country?
DEAN: The lead researcher in this field told me, he said, "I look at the numbers of the United States and I see about 23% of the population who are pure right-wing authoritarian followers." They're not going to change. They're going to march over the cliff. The best thing to deal with them -- and they're growing, and they have a tremendous influence on Republican politics -- The best defense is understanding them, to realize what they are doing, how they're doing it and how they operate. Then it can be kept in perspective and they can be seen for what they are.
The above study explains why, while both ends of the political spectrum sometimes call each other "Kool-Aid Drinkers" (as in the followers of Jim Jones), this epithet better describes the Right than the Left. Add in the high crossover of those on the Far Right and those who subscribe to fundamentalist religions (which have a very unforgiving black & white view of the world) and you have the sort of people who are unwilling to have inconsequential things like facts and reality conflict with their belief in their ideology and their leaders.

The next news item that really caught my eye this week was a Justice Department lawyer telling the Senate Judiciary Committee the following:
‘The President Is Always Right’
The exchange went like this:
LEAHY: I don’t think the President was talking about the nuances of the law of war paradigm, he was saying this was going to tell him that he could keep Guantanamo open or not, after it said he could.

BRADBURY: Well, it’s not —

LEAHY: Was the President right or was he wrong?

BRABURY: It’s under the law of war –

LEAHY: Was the President right or was he wrong?

BRADBURY: The President is always right.
As one commenter at Think Progress said:
Well, there it is, folks. The Doctrine of the Unitary Executive, or, in other words, ‘The King can do no wrong’.
And, that's the really scary part. This is just not a snarky answer said with a smirk to a US Senator, this has been Bush's answer to every challenge he's had to his authority. Furthermore, he's surrounded himself with people like Alito and Gonzales who believe the same. Those in the Administration (and the Pentagon) with opposing views have found themselves being shown the door.

As was pointed out at Shakespeare's Sister:

Anyone ever see this propaganda poster from Germany in the thirties? It simply says, in big bold letters:

"Der F├╝hrer hat immer recht."

It means, "The Leader is always right."

I'll look for a photo link—I saw it at a holocaust exhibit in a German museum several years ago. It's considered one of the basic principles of the political philosophy of the Third Reich.

No, I'm not calling the President "Hitler." But I am saying that when you have a quarter of the public who crave the most authoritarian of leaders; and when this segment of the public has a disproportionate influence on all leaders (the pull of the Religious Right/Extreme Right); and when you have leaders in the top echelons who have authoritarian personalities; and you have a media who, overall, have rolled over to these leaders and one segment who operates as the house organ of these leaders; and you throw in wars and rumors of war; you have a most disastrous mix. Or to repeat John Dean:
"It's a warning as to where this can go. Other countries have gone there."
I remember just days after 9/11, the subject of torture came up. I couldn't believe that rationalizations for torture were being discussed in the media. It wasn't a huge discussion, but it came up -- especially on places like FOX News. It was like they couldn't wait (or perhaps more ominously, they already knew and were helping to prepare the way).

So what can be done to help ensure that we don't go where "other countries have gone?"

First, we must recognize that there is a good 25 to 30% of the country that those of us who value our freedoms will never capture.

These are the "baby eating numbers" (so called because they are so partisan that their leaders could eat a baby and they'd still find a way to defend them).

We will never reach them and we shouldn't waste any time trying.

We have to go for those in the Mushy Middle.

These are people who want strong leaders, but won't go over a cliff for them. These are people who you can reason with. And, who will listen to you if you present a strong compelling message.

But, in a time when are leaders are only too happy to both lie and scare the crap out of us to get what they want, we will get nowhere by being lapdogs or apologists.

The middle and the independents already know something isn't right. While they may not pay attention to every latest outrage by this administration, the poll numbers reflect their disapproval. Bush's poll numbers barely go higher than his "baby eating numbers." It's been this way for month after month. And, the numbers for Congressional Republicans are even worse.

Now is not the time for weakness or vacillation on the part of Democrats.

Now is the time to shout:

"Had enough?"

And, to offer them a real alternative

The majority of the public knows that Bush has been a disaster on nearly everything: Katrina, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, gasoline prices, health care, education, and the pocketbooks and wages of the average American.

They are ready for a change and we must give it to them.

Happy Bastille Day