Democracy Has Prevailed.

November 30, 2006

From Ronald Reagan's favorite Newspaper

The Washington Times:
Rival Shi'ite and Sunni groups are massing their militias in expectation of major confrontations, Iraqis say, even as President Bush prepares to meet today with the nation's embattled prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
A little later:
But Iraqis on both sides of their nation's sectarian divide report worrisome signs that the conflict will soon evolve into pitched battles between large armed groups.
Civil War anyone? Even the Washington Times says it's close:
Any emergence of pitched battles between massed groups of Sunnis and Shi'ites would largely settle a long-running argument in Washington over whether the conflict in Iraq should be described as a civil war -- a description the Bush administration has so far rejected.
Hey, wasn't one of the reasons (along with the fraudulent WMD reports and the fraudulent Iraq-al Qaeda connection) for the US invasion of Iraq that toppling Saddam Hussein would bring stability to that nation and the region?

Now even The Gipper's morning paper says that if the Sunnis and Shi'ites go at it, it's Civil War.

And it was all triggered by Dubya's invasion - what a great idea that turned out to be, huh?

Another reason Bush is the Worst. President. Ever.

November 29, 2006

Bush gets spanked - again

From the AP:
A federal judge struck down President Bush's authority to designate groups as terrorists, saying his post-Sept. 11 executive order was unconstitutional and vague, according to a ruling released Tuesday.
A Bush EO was unconstitutional and vague? Stop the presses, we have something that's news!
"This law gave the president unfettered authority to create blacklists," said David Cole, a lawyer for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Constitutional Rights that represented the group. "It was reminiscent of the McCarthy era."
But wait, according to Ann Coulter, Joe McCarthy was a victim of a liberal witch hunt:
The myth of "McCarthyism" is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times. Liberals are fanatical liars, then as now. The portrayal of Sen. Joe McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is sheer liberal hobgoblinism. Liberals weren't hiding under the bed during the McCarthy era. They were systematically undermining the nation's ability to defend itself, while waging a bellicose campaign of lies to blacken McCarthy's name. Liberals denounced McCarthy because they were afraid of getting caught, so they fought back like animals to hide their own collaboration with a regime as evil as the Nazis. As Whittaker Chambers said: "Innocence seldom utters outraged shrieks. Guilt does."
If anyone knows about Orwellian frauds, it's Ms Coulter and the Conservatives. But hey, did you notice how she continued the McCarthy-ite attack? Liberals were guilty of treason because they denounced McCarthy.

Anyway back to Bush. The wingnuts over at freerepublic have already begun to seethe. Here's one response:
Well, ol' Audrey apparently wants more terrorists to get into the country and then kill thousands of more people so that we can all be "victims" again and feel good about it.
Ah, there it is. Disagree with Bush and you want more terrorists to kill more Americans. Such rational thinking from the right. William F. Buckley must be so proud.

Meanwhile, there's this from The Hill (via
President Bush has pledged to work with the new Democratic majorities in Congress, but he has already gotten off on the wrong foot with Jim Webb, whose surprise victory over Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) tipped the Senate to the Democrats.

Webb, a decorated former Marine officer, hammered Allen and Bush over the unpopular war in Iraq while wearing his son’s old combat boots on the campaign trail. It seems the president may have some lingering resentment.

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.
Nice guy that Dubya. Asks a father about how his son is doing in the war he manipulated the nation into and then gets his panties in a knot when he doesn't hear the answer he wants to hear.

The article goes on:
Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t. It’s safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won’t be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon.
To which Josh Marshal asks:
Can he vote on bills from Gitmo?
How long before they Swiftboat Webb?

November 28, 2006

Civil War

I've never quite understood why the adjective "Civil" is used to describe such a war. I mean, what's "civil" about it? I'm also by no means the first person (or probably even within the first million) to ask that question. So sue me.

In any event, a major media outlet, NBC has begun to use the term to describe Bush's debacle in Iraq.
President Bush is now in the midst of an overseas trip that will take him later this week a meeting in Jordan with Iraq's prime minister. But behind in Washington, D.C., the nation's Capitol is now gripped by a ferocious debate over the term "civil war."

Today, as Air Force One was halfway over the Atlantic Ocean, a White House spokesman protested a decision by several American news organizations, including NBC News, to call the violence in Iraq a civil war.
If it walks like a duck.
This morning, on the Today Show, Matt Lauer said, "NBC News has decided a change in terminology is warranted -- that the situation in Iraq with armed militarized factions fighting for their own political agendas -- can now be characterized as a civil war."

Bush administration officials fear that when most Americans hear the term civil war, they associate it with out own war between the states 140 years ago. That was a conflict between the Union North and the Confederate South that produced 650,000 casualties, or one out of every 50 Americans at the time. To this day, the U.S. Civil War remains a force in America's historical identity and psyche.
And quacks like a duck.
However, the U.N. reported last week that an average of 120 Iraqi civilians are getting killed every day. This weekend, the violence in Baghdad claimed the lives of 215 people in one day. Several experts say Iraq reached civil war status months ago.
It's probably a duck.

But leave it to the administration that "makes it's own reality" to describe it otherwise.
This fall, press secretary Tony Snow declared Iraq does not qualify as a civil war because the violence is different. "You do have a lot of different forces that are trying to put pressure on the government and trying to undermine it,” Snow said. “But it's not clear that they are operating as a unified force."
Here's the transcript from The press briefing was from October.
Q Tony, a couple of minutes ago, you said one of the goals in Iraq is to prevent civil war. Can you take a minute and give us the definition that the President is working with? Because he continues to say it's not at that state yet; lots of analysts do say it's at that state. What's the threshold that the administration is working with --

MR. SNOW: I think the general notion is a civil war is when you have people who use the American Civil War or other civil wars as an example, where people break up into clearly identifiable feuding sides clashing for supremacy within Iran.

Q And there's nothing on the ground that the President is looking at that he thinks is a prospect --

MR. SNOW: At this point, you do have a lot of different forces that are trying to put pressure on the government and trying to undermine it. But it's not clear that they are operating as a unified force. You don't have a clearly identifiable leader. And so in this particular case, no.

What you do have is a number of different groups -- you know, they've been described in some cases as rejectionists, in others as terrorists. In many cases, they are not groups that would naturally get along, either, but they severally and together pose a threat to the government.
So to the worse administration ever, unless the situation on the ground more or less matches the American Civil War (known to our southern friends as "The War Between the States), it ain't the walking quacking duck that everyone else sees.

And why would this be?
Bush administration officials fear that when most Americans hear the term civil war, they associate it with out own war between the states 140 years ago. That was a conflict between the Union North and the Confederate South that produced 650,000 casualties, or one out of every 50 Americans at the time. To this day, the U.S. Civil War remains a force in America's historical identity and psyche.
And that would further undermine support for Bush's war. Further undermine?

And let's remember that Iraq's population (according to the CIA Factbook) was estimated at 26,783,383 . So we're talking that the population of that country is a little less than one-tenth of the US.

So to imagine the same numbers here, on average at least 1200 people would have to be dying per day. Imagine if 2150 died in violence in NYC or Washington DC on one day this weekend.

No of course it's not civil war - because according to Tony Snow, there isn't a "clearly identifiable leader" on the otherside.

And the funny thing? Since we are the occupiers of that country, we're responsibile for the security of that country.

Another Bush failure.

November 27, 2006

I'm ba-a-a-a-ak!

Just a note to let everyone know that I'm back from my mini-vacation.

It was great to have a break.

November 22, 2006

From Reg Henry

In today's P-G. He declares upfront that he's not a Bush "hater" but a Bush "Can't stander."
I will further admit that my skin creeps every time I watch Mr. Bush on TV, but that merely indicates a very fastidious epidermis. It's not like I have an insane hatred of the president. Just because you can't stand a person doesn't mean you are sufficiently bothered to hate him.
See? And:
My attitude to Mr. Bush is that hate is a very strong emotion and it shouldn't be wasted on politicians. When it comes to hate, I have my standards.
Good Advice.

But then he gets down to it:
Yes, his administration has made this nation reviled by much of the world, it has spent money like a drunken sailor, led the vital pursuit of terrorists into a cul-de-sac called Iraq, ridden roughshod over constitutional protections and been contemptuous of the environment, but I agree with my critics that it would be awfully picky and irrational to hate the president for this.

After all, we all know that it's not his fault. He comes from a privileged family and went to some of the most exclusive schools in the country. No wonder he has no grasp of reality.
Point one: No grasp on reality.
As a Vietnam veteran myself, I am not here to tell you that it was about time. If I had been given the opportunity to fly jets in Texas during the time of the Vietnam War, as Mr. Bush did, I would have jumped at the chance.

I don't reproach Mr. Bush at all. As the old saying has it, they also serve who but stand and wait. The young Mr. Bush stood at attention, he waited, then he waited some more, and finally he got tired of waiting and sort of wandered off without a word being said. In the meantime, he saved Texas from the Reds and presumably flew over some fields and woke up some cattle.
Point two: "Wandered off" refers, I understand, to Bush's failure to complete his military service.
While Mr. Bush sought to avoid comparisons between the Iraq morass and the Vietnam quagmire on his visit, he managed a few inanities for the sake of his fans. He said that Vietnam's progress gave him hope for Iraq and that the lasting lesson of America's defeat more than three decades was that now "we'll succeed unless we quit." Actually, Vietnam succeeded after we quit, but hey! Can't hate a man just because he is historically confused.
Point three: Historically confused.
In the picture run by The New York Times, Mr. Bush is whispering something to Russian President Vladmir Putin, both of them looking fetching in blue. In front, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in pink with a traditional hat, looking apprehensive, as if some clown is about to descend and give her a back rub. For all the world, it could be the family picture at a gay wedding.
Point four: A clown.

With that I'd like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I'll be off-line for a few days.

Be excellent to each other and don't let the trolls bother you. They're just so filled with "anti-Democrat" hate that they clearly can't think clearly.

November 21, 2006

Winter Soldier on Sundance

I don't know if the Sundance Channel planned it this way or whether it was just one big strange karmic coincidence, but the same day Keith Olbermann commented on Dubya's ignorant and shameful ignorance of the lessons of Vietnam, the Sundance Channel broadcast Winter Soldier.

Good for them. I hope they broadcast it again.

Here's the documentary's website and here's the full transcript of the testimony.

By the way, it was the Winter Soldier Investigation that John Kerry was speaking of at his Senate Testimony in April, 1971. He was Swift-Boated for this paragraph:
They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.
Wingnuttia charged that it was Kerry who was making these allegations - and thus attacking the troops. But take a look at this. These are from the Winter Soldier testimony - neither man is John Kerry.:

On cutting off ears:
People cut off ears and when they'd come back in off of an operation you'd make deals before you'd go out and like for every ear you cut off someone would buy you two beers, so people cut off ears.
Or this on the telephone wires being hooked up to genitals:
You tied them to a tree and get the dog handler to let the dog jump and bite at the person tied to the tree. Or again, with the field telephone, you wired it up to his ears, his nose, his genitals. This was done to women; I've seen it done to women.
So Abu Ghraib wasn't the first dog-based "interrogation"?


Olbermann's Comment last night

In case you missed it, here it is.
It is a shame and it is embarrassing to us all when President Bush travels 8,000 miles only to wind up avoiding reality again.

And it is pathetic to listen to a man talk unrealistically about Vietnam, who permitted the “Swift-Boating” of not one but two American heroes of that war, in consecutive presidential campaigns.

But most importantly — important beyond measure — his avoidance of reality is going to wind up killing more Americans.

And that is indefensible and fatal.

Asked if there were lessons about Iraq to be found in our experience in Vietnam, Mr. Bush said that there were, and he immediately proved he had no clue what they were.

“One lesson is,” he said, “that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while.”

“We’ll succeed,” the president concluded, “unless we quit.”

If that’s the lesson about Iraq that Mr. Bush sees in Vietnam, then he needs a tutor.

Or we need somebody else making the decisions about Iraq.

Mr. Bush, there are a dozen central, essential lessons to be derived from our nightmare in Vietnam, but “we’ll succeed unless we quit,” is not one of them.

The primary one — which should be as obvious to you as the latest opinion poll showing that only 31 percent of this country agrees with your tragic Iraq policy — is that if you try to pursue a war for which the nation has lost its stomach, you and it are finished. Ask Lyndon Johnson.

The second most important lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: If you don’t have a stable local government to work with, you can keep sending in Americans until hell freezes over and it will not matter. Ask Vietnamese Presidents Diem or Thieu.

The third vital lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: Don’t pretend it’s something it’s not. For decades we were warned that if we didn’t stop “communist aggression” in Vietnam, communist agitators would infiltrate and devour the small nations of the world, and make their insidious way, stealthily, to our doorstep.

The war machine of 1968 had this “domino theory.”

Your war machine of 2006 has this nonsense about Iraq as “the central front in the war on terror.”

The fourth pivotal lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: If the same idiots who told Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to stay there for the sake of “peace With honor” are now telling you to stay in Iraq, they’re probably just as wrong now, as they were then ... Dr. Kissinger.

And the fifth crucial lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush — which somebody should’ve told you about long before you plunged this country into Iraq — is that if you lie your country into a war, your war, your presidency will be consigned to the scrap heap of history.

Consider your fellow Texan, sir.

After Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Johnson held the country together after a national tragedy, not unlike you did. He had lofty goals and tried to reshape society for the better. And he is remembered for Vietnam, and for the lies he and his government told to get us there and keep us there, and for the Americans who needlessly died there.

As you will be remembered for Iraq, and for the lies you and your government told to get us there and keep us there, and for the Americans who have needlessly died there and who will needlessly die there tomorrow.

This president has his fictitious Iraqi WMD, and his lies — disguised as subtle hints — linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11, and his reason-of-the-week for keeping us there when all the evidence for at least three years has told us we need to get as many of our kids out as quickly as possible.

That president had his fictitious attacks on Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, and the next thing any of us knew, the Senate had voted 88-2 to approve the blank check with which Lyndon Johnson paid for our trip into hell.

And yet President Bush just saw the grim reminders of that trip into hell: the 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese killed; the 10,000 civilians who’ve been blown up by landmines since we pulled out; the genocide in the neighboring country of Cambodia, which we triggered.

Yet these parallels — and these lessons — eluded President Bush entirely.

And, in particular, the one over-arching lesson about Iraq that should’ve been written everywhere he looked in Vietnam went unseen.

“We’ll succeed unless we quit”?

Mr. Bush, we did quit in Vietnam!

A decade later than we should have, 58,000 dead later than we should have, but we finally came to our senses.

The stable, burgeoning, vivid country you just saw there, is there because we finally had the good sense to declare victory and get out!

The domino theory was nonsense, sir.

Our departure from Vietnam emboldened no one.

Communism did not spread like a contagion around the world.

And most importantly — as President Reagan’s assistant secretary of state, Lawrence Korb, said on this newscast Friday — we were only in a position to win the Cold War because we quit in Vietnam.

We went home. And instead it was the Russians who learned nothing from Vietnam, and who repeated every one of our mistakes when they went into Afghanistan. And alienated their own people, and killed their own children, and bankrupted their own economy and allowed us to win the Cold War.

We awakened so late, but we did awaken.

Finally, in Vietnam, we learned the lesson. We stopped endlessly squandering lives and treasure and the focus of a nation on an impossible and irrelevant dream, but you are still doing exactly that, tonight, in Iraq.

And these lessons from Vietnam, Mr. Bush, these priceless, transparent lessons, writ large as if across the very sky, are still a mystery to you.

“We’ll succeed unless we quit.”

No, sir.

We will succeed against terrorism, for our country’s needs, toward binding up the nation’s wounds when you quit, quit the monumental lie that is our presence in Iraq.

And in the interim, Mr. Bush, an American kid will be killed there, probably tonight or tomorrow.

And here, sir, endeth the lesson.
'Nuff said.

November 19, 2006

Get Well, Maria

I just got off the phone with Maria.

She'll won't be blogging for a few days as she is under the weather big time.

Get well, Maria.


Thus Spake Kissinger

This is bad. For Dubya.

When a war criminal like Henry Kissinger says:
"If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible," he told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Notice also how Kissinger (who obviously chooses his words carefully) states things: "an Iraqi government...that gets the civil war under control." He puts it in the present tense with no qualifiers.

So not only does the say military victory isn't possible, he says there's a civil war. Now.

Bad. Bad for Dubya.

Filibuster this, filibuster that

Check this out It's from the AP.
The Senate's next Republican leader issued a veiled threat to block action on legislation if Democrats refuse to allow confirmation votes on President Bush's troubled judicial nominations.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record) of Kentucky, who will become minority leader Jan. 4, told the conservative Federalist Society Friday not to feel bad about the Senate election results because Republicans will hold 49 seats in a body that requires 60 votes to end a filibuster and bring legislation or presidential nominees to a final vote.

If the "Democrats want our cooperation, they'll give the president's judicial nominee an up-or-down vote," McConnell said.
Wait a sec. Is Senator McConnell really threatening (and I suppose he is) to filibuster other legislation unless Dubya's nominees get to bypass the entire Senate process and get an up-or-down vote?

Even though Senator Frist admitted on the Senate floor on May 12, 2005 that there's no Constitutional requirement for all Judicial nominees to get an "up or down" vote:
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I would Mr. President, here is my guide, the Constitution of the United States. What does it say? Does it say that each nominee shall have an up-or-down vote? Does it say that? I ask the Senator from Tennessee, I ask any Senator to respond to that question. Does this Constitution accord to each nominee an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor?

Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, I would be happy to respond to the question that has been directed to me.

Mr. BYRD. I ask unanimous consent that I may yield without losing my right to the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. The Senator from Tennessee is recognized.

Mr. FRIST. To the question, does the Constitution say that every nominee of the President deserves an up-or-down vote, the answer is, no, the language is not there. [emphasis added]
So Mitch McConnell is threatening to stop legislation (unreleated legislation) for in order to force something that is not even Constitutionally mandated.

Ah, Republicans. You have to admire such a respect for tradition.

This brief primer should suffice to illustrate how the GOP views rules and traditions that get in the way of their power:
Originally, after Republicans gained control of the Senate in the 1994 elections and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch assumed control of the Judiciary Committee, the rule regarding judicial nominees was this: If a single senator from a nominee's home state objected to (or "blue-slipped") a nomination, it was dead. This rule made it easy for Republicans to obstruct Clinton's nominees.

But in 2001, when a Republican became president, Hatch suddenly reversed course and decided that it should take objections from both home-state senators to block a nominee. That made it harder for Democrats to obstruct George W. Bush's nominees.

In early 2003 Hatch went even further: Senatorial objections were merely advisory, he said. Even if both senators objected to a nomination, it could still go to the floor for a vote.

Finally, a few weeks later, yet another barrier was torn down: Hatch did away with "Rule IV," which states that at least one member of the minority has to agree in order to end discussion about a nomination and move it out of committee.
Here's a thought for the new Judiciary Committee: Reset the rules to exactly what they were when there was a Democrat in the White House and the Republicans used the rules to block President Clinton's nominees. Senator Feinstein in 2005:
When Democrats were in the White House -- I will talk for a moment on Senate procedure -- Republicans used the filibuster and other procedural delays to deny judicial nominees an up-or-down vote. So denying a judicial nominee an up-or-down vote is nothing new. It has been done over and over and over again. I speak as a member of the Judiciary Committee for 12 years, and I have seen it done over and over and over again.

So why suddenly is an up-or-down vote now the be all and end all?

Last administration, Republicans used the practice of blue slips or an anonymous hold, which I have just described, to allow a single Senator -- not 41 Senators, but 1 -- to prevent a nomination from receiving a vote in the Judiciary Committee, a 60-vote cloture vote on the floor, or an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. This was a filibuster of one, and it can still take place within the Judiciary Committee.

The fact is, more than 60 judicial nominees suffered this fate during the last administration. In other words, over 60 Clinton judges were filibustered successfully by one Senator, often anonymous, often in secret, no debate as to why. It was an effective blackball.
Tradition - reset the rules and ignore McConnell's childishly absurd threat.

November 17, 2006

I'm on KDKA tonight!

I'll be on The Flipside with John McIntire's tonight at 8pm

Give a listen.

How is this not abuse?

Perhaps you've already seen this video:

It shows UCLA student Mostafa Tabatabainejad being repeatedly tasered by UCPD police.

His offense? Here's an account of the incident from the Daily Bruin:
By this time the student had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well.

The student began to yell "get off me," repeating himself several times.

It was at this point that the officers shot the student with a Taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain. The student also told the officers he had a medical condition.

Video shot from a student's camera phone captured the student yelling, "Here's your Patriot Act, here's your fucking abuse of power," while he struggled with the officers.

As the student was screaming, UCPD officers repeatedly told him to stand up and said "stop fighting us." The student did not stand up as the officers requested and they shot him with the Taser at least once more.

"It was the most disgusting and vile act I had ever seen in my life," said David Remesnitsky, a 2006 UCLA alumnus who witnessed the incident.

As the student and the officers were struggling, bystanders repeatedly asked the police officers to stop, and at one point officers told the gathered crowd to stand back and threatened to use a Taser on anyone who got too close.

Laila Gordy, a fourth-year economics student who was present in the library during the incident, said police officers threatened to shoot her with a Taser when she asked an officer for his name and his badge number.

[Emphasis added courtesy of Pam's House Blend]
While the article mentiones the student being tasered twice, other student accounts (and the video) indicate as many as six shocks were administered.

According to a later article in the Daily Bruin, Tabatabainejad was also stunned with the Taser when he was already handcuffed.

Also from the Daily Bruin:
But according to a study published in the Lancet Medical Journal in 2001, a charge of three to five seconds can result in immobilization for five to 15 minutes, which would mean that Tabatabainejad could have been physically unable to stand when the officers demanded that he do so.

"It is a real mistake to treat a Taser as some benign thing that painlessly brings people under control," said Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney at the ACLU of Southern California.

"The Taser can be incredibly violent and result in death," Eliasberg said.

According to an ACLU report, 148 people in the United States and Canada have died as a result of the use of Tasers since 1999.

During the altercation between Tabatabainejad and the officers, bystanders can be heard in the video repeatedly asking the officers to stop and requesting their names and identification numbers. The video showed one officer responding to a student by threatening that the student would "get Tased too." At this point, the officer was still holding a Taser.

Such a threat of the use of force by a law enforcement officer in response to a request for a badge number is an "illegal assault," Eliasberg said.

"It is absolutely illegal to threaten anyone who asks for a badge รข€" that's assault," he said.

Tabatabainejad was released from custody after being given a citation for obstruction/delay of a peace officer in the performance of duty.
The officers claimed that Tabatabainejad deserved the shocks because he was a non-white Muslim he "went limp and refused to exit as the officers attempted to escort him out" and because he ""encouraged library patrons to join his resistance."

There is no evidence of the student encouraging resistance by others on the six minute tape. Eyewitness accounts said that Tabatabainejad repeatedly told officers "I'm not fighting you" and "I said I would leave" as he was being dragged out. They also note that at the beginning of the conflict, he had already logged off the computer, grabbed his backpack and was headed towards the door.

If I understand the officers explanation correctly, it would have been perfectly OK to Taser Gandhi, civil rights lunch counter protestors, or anyone else who display civil disobediance by going limp.

It's a nice world we live in.

Do we really have two more years of this???

So Little Georgie Bush finally makes it to Vietnam and -- who would have guessed it -- he isn't doing too well on his field trip.

First, his White House puts up the wrong Vietnam flag on their website (they used the old South Vietnam flag).

Then he completely flubbed the oral exam.

While talking about Iraq in comparison to Vietnam, he clearly demonstrated that he had not been paying attention to the lesson plan when he said:
"One lesson is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while," he said.

"We'll succeed unless we quit," he said.
Fortunately for the class, student nwskinner from the Daily Kos school followed Georgie's report with his own summation:
1. vietnam was not ours to lose - it was a sovereign country.
2. we did not lose the war because we left too soon - we stayed there for at least 15 f***ing years.
3. we did not lose because of lack of effort - we dropped a greater tonnage of bombs on vietnam than all parties dropped in wwII and at times we had over a million troops in that theater.
4. we did not lose because we did not kill enough people - we killed at least a million vietnamese in our sojourn there and we are still killing them.
5. we lost because it was unwinnable - these pig f**ing morons, including kissinger, still cannot get over the fact that war is generally a piss poor idea and sometimes one cannot win. ask the chinese - they have not beaten the vietnamese in 2000 years.

That's another F for Georgie and an A for nw.

Payments In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) and the Phantom Revenue

More details on the Phantom Revenues - the PILOT revenue.

In this recent posting, I touched upon the "phantom revenue" from the consortium of non-profits. Here's the quotation from the P-G again.
A consortium of nonprofit groups has said it doesn't plan to give the city money after 2007, but the city's plan counts on $5.7 million a year from such organizations through 2011.
But I still wondered what the story was with the PILOT stuff anyway. The P-G's Rich Lord from 2005:
The issue first emerged in the 1980s, when the city and Allegheny County both saw their property tax bases erode as expanding nonprofit institutions took land off the tax rolls.
And then
In the late 1980s, the city and county tried what was then a novel approach. They went before the county's Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review to challenge the tax-exempt status of big nonprofit organizations including large hospitals, the Downtown YMCA and the Central Blood Bank.

"That forced some of them to come in and justify that they were purely public charities," said Ron Pferdehirt, an associate city solicitor who was involved in those efforts.

At the time, state law put the burden on nonprofit entities to prove that they advanced charitable purposes, had no private profit motive, provided free services, helped people in need and relieved the government of some of its burdens.

Rather than roll the dice before the assessment board, nonprofit groups settled with the city, signing on to multiyear contracts to make payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, to the city.
The fund negotiated an agreement with Mayor Tom Murphy in which it pledges to contribute to the city through 2007. During its three-year term, the agreement would bar the city from pursuing any new taxes or fees on charitable organizations that make contributions, or from unduly slowing their applications for permits and licenses.

Murphy has estimated that nonprofit groups will contribute $5.7 million this year.
So that's where the $5.7 Million figure comes from. But there's the 2007 date as well. A month or so later Lord had more:
The fiscally troubled city set out last year to raise $33.5 million over five years from tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.

Yesterday, Mayor Tom Murphy and City Council received a response from the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund, which represents universities, hospitals, foundations, arts groups and nonprofit insurers. Their pledge: $12.1 million over three years.

"They're just present pledges," said the Rev. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the fund and the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Under a proposed contract between the fund and the city, he said, "it could go up, it could go down."

The fund pledged $4.57 million in 2005, $3.89 million in 2006 and $3.69 million in 2007.

Mr. Murphy's 2005 budget called for $6.7 million from nonprofit organizations. In a new budget unveiled in February, he scaled that back to $5.7 million for 2006 and 2007.
There it is again. $5.7 million in 2007. And that's what Mayor Murphy asked for. The fund itself was pledging less.

And what of the possibility of extending the three year contract (or adding another or whatever)?

Here's The Trib's Jeremy Boren (again from 2005):
The Rev. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the fund and the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese, said he promised in a meeting with the council last week to ask his ruling board if members would be open to future contribution talks, but nothing more.

"I was asked if we would be willing to consider continuing, and I said I would take that request to the board, but it was my strong opinion that the board would not be interested.

"Did I acknowledge that there's some slim possibility? Well, never say 'never,' " Lengwin said.
Why the shift? Here's Rich Lord again:
In 1997, the state passed the Purely Public Charities Act. It shifted the burden of proof, creating a presumption that certain organizations were tax-exempt.

That undermined city leverage in negotiating PILOT agreements, said Pferdehirt. The city can, and occasionally does, challenge the tax exemptions of specific parcels of property, he said. But it no longer challenges the nonprofit status of entire institutions, nor vigorously pursues PILOT agreements.
Unless things have changed in the past few years (and I don't see where they have) adding revenue from the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund that the fund itself hasn't promised to deliver, is not really a good idea.

To say the least.

November 16, 2006

A Snake in the Grass

If you've been playing along with the home version, you know that Ol' Snakehead (James Carville) has been slithering around since election week trying to push the theory that DNC Chairman Howard Dean is bad for the party and did not contribute to the Democratic victory last Tuesday.

Now certainly there's more than enough credit to go around:

First, there was a wave of public revulsion at the War On Iraq and massive Republican corruption.

Second, you had the unions, the party workers, the activists, the netroots, and grassroots who worked their butts off.

Third, Chuck Schumer (chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) and Rahm Emanuel (chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) did their bit to raise funds and cultivate candidates.

Fourth, underpinning all that was Dean's 50 State Strategy which "placed the Republicans on the defensive in once safe districts, forcing them to allocate resources over an increasingly large electoral terrain. The Republicans could no longer pour superior resources into a few seats making them harder for Dems to win."
There was a time when I thought that Howard Dean was condemned to be a modern day Cassandra -- having the gift of prophecy but cursed so that no one would ever believe the predictions. However, things move faster now than in the time of the ancient Greeks so while Dean was, for example, widely ridiculed when he said that America was no safer when Saddam Hussein was captured, the public has come around to seeing the light.

Thankfully, this time around when Dean is being attacked, he has lots of supporters including Schumer publicly backing the 50 State plan; John Conyers saying that Carville is helping the Republicans; The National Journal's Hot Line's wonderful "Dated Kerry, Married Dean" article; England's Labour Party's invitation to Dean to advise them before their next election; and MyDD's threat:"If Howard Dean is ousted as DNC chair, I will start a campaign for all small donors and all netroots activists to stop giving money to the DNC, DSCC, DCCC, DLCC and DGA. This is not an idle threat. Democratic parties and committees will lose tens of millions of dollars every year if they do this. Count on it."

So after all this what does Snakehead Carville do?

He runs his mouth off again to rundown Dean by dissing him on CNN (video here) and telling a group of political reporters about Dean, “I would describe his leadership as Rumsfeldian in its competence.”

So what the fuck is up with James Carville?

I think that Chris Bowers at MyDD nails it:
There are two main reasons why James Carville does not like Howard Dean. The first is that Howard Dean does not trash other Democrats, and Carville prefers Democrats who throw their own party under the bus. The second is that he is a political consultant, and as such many of his friends have gotten rich off of commissions from television advertisements. As far as he is concerned, all donations to all Democratic committees exist so that he and his friends can get richer. Since Howard Dean is spending money on field organizers and grants to state parties, his friends tend to not get rich from the money the DNC raised. This is abhorrent to Carville, since Democratic Party committees exist to make him and his friends rich.
One other thing though. Back in October, M.J. Rosenberg over at TPM Cafe found a troubling incident involving Carville in Bob Woodward's new book:

On page 344, Woodward describes the doings at the White House in the early morning hours of Wednesday, the day after the '04 election.

Apparently, Kerry had decided not to concede. There were 250,000 outstanding ballots in Ohio.

So Kerry decides to fight. In fact, he considers going to Ohio to camp out with his voters until there is a recount. This is the last thing the White House needs, especially after Florida 2000.

So what happened?

James Carville gets on the phone with his wife, Mary Matalin, who is at the White House with Bush.

"Carville told her he had some inside news. The Kerry campaign was going to challenge the provisional ballots in Ohio -- perhaps up to 250,000 of them. 'I don't agree with it, Carville said. I'm just telling you that's what they're talking about.'"

Matalin went to Cheney to report...You better tell the President Cheney told her. "Matalin does, advising Bush that "somebody in authority needed to get in touch with J. Kenneth Blackwell, the Republican Secretary of State in Ohio who would be in charge of any challenge to the provisional votes." An SOS goes out to Blackwell.

The rest is history.

Does something about this story stink to high heaven!
I'll say!

So, want to stand up for Dean and show up Ol' Snakehead?

Tomorrow is Howard Dean's birthday.

Let me suggest a gift that keeps on giving -- send Howard Dean a birthday card with a check made out to the DNC:

Governor Howard Dean
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capitol St. S.E.
Washington, DC 20003

Nothing like a little green to help drive out the snakes...


Document shows Bush guided CIA on detention (torture)

From the International Herald Tribune:
WASHINGTON: The Central Intelligence Agency has acknowledged for the first time the existence of two classified documents, including one signed by President George W. Bush, that have guided the agency's interrogation and detention of terror suspects.


The contents of the documents were not revealed, but one document, as described by the ACLU, is "a directive signed by President Bush granting the CIA the authority to set up detention facilities outside the United States and outlining interrogation methods that may be used against detainees."

The second document, according to the group is a Justice Department legal analysis "specifying interrogation methods that the CIA may use against top Al Qaeda members."

(h/t to theyrereal at Daily Kos)
And, on a completely unrelated note, the Bushies have purchased 98,840 acres of land in Paraguay.

Also, completely unrelated: the Paraguayan Senate voted last summer to “grant U.S. troops immunity from national and International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction.”

Well, isn't that special

From today's Washington Post:
Sectarian Strife in Iraq Imperils Entire Region, Analysts Warn

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 16, 2006; Page A01

BAGHDAD -- While American commanders have suggested that civil war is possible in Iraq, many leaders, experts and ordinary people in Baghdad and around the Middle East say it is already underway, and that the real worry ahead is that the conflict will destroy the flimsy Iraqi state and draw in surrounding countries.

Whether the U.S. military departs Iraq sooner or later, the United States will be hard-pressed to leave behind a country that does not threaten U.S. interests and regional peace, according to U.S. and Arab analysts and political observers.

"We're not talking about just a full-scale civil war. This would be a failed-state situation with fighting among various groups," growing into regional conflict, Joost Hiltermann, Middle East project director for the International Crisis Group, said by telephone from Amman, Jordan.

"The war will be over Iraq, over its dead body," Hiltermann said. [emphasis added]

Thanks, George!

Cocktails for a Cause!

When: Tuesday, December 5 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m
Where: Brillobox, 4104 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh PA
Why: Brillobox will be donating 60 percent of food and beverage sales to Planned Parenthood of Western PA

This quarterly fundraiser provides a great chance to eat and drink in the service of a good cause -- The Brillo Box will be donating a generous 60 percent of food and drink to Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania. You’ll also have the opportunity to purchase PP related gifts, including magnets, t-shirts, chapstick and more. Please spread the word.

Please RSVP to

November 15, 2006

FOX News Gives $2 Million to Terrorists

Don't we declare folks who give money to terrorists to be enemy combatants?

Does this mean that we can expect to see Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly waterboarded . . . soon . . . please?

From World Net Daily:
Fox News reporters freed for $2 million
Terrorists used cash for arms to 'hit Zionists,' payment said to encourage more abductions

JERUSALEM – Palestinian terror groups and security organizations in the Gaza Strip received $2 million from a United States source in exchange for the release of Fox News employees Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, who were kidnapped here last summer, a senior leader of one of the groups suspected of the abductions told WND.

The terror leader, from the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees, said his organization's share of the money was used to purchase weapons, which he said would be utilized "to hit the Zionists."

He said he expects the payments for Centanni and Wiig's freedom will encourage Palestinian groups to carry out further kidnappings.


A spokeswoman for Fox News Channel told WND she could not provide an official statement about whether Fox was aware of money paid to free its two employees.

A source at Fox told WND many parties were involved with the freedom of Centanni and Wiig, including the U.S. government, and that it was possible money was paid.

A State Department spokesman said his agency did not pay for the release of the Fox News employees.

Hmmm...I thought FOX News was against any negotiating with terrorists?

What will we tell the children?

Phantom Revenues - what does it mean?

Yesterday, I pointed out that Coucilman Bill Peduto invariably used the phrase "phantom revenues" when discussing the Mayor's recently presented city budget. There was this from the Trib:
But that's not stopping Councilman William Peduto, who is likely to challenge Ravenstahl in the spring mayoral primary, from criticizing the mayor's budget and five-year spending plan for including "phantom revenues" in the form of state grants and donations from nonprofits.

"This is no different than what we were doing in 2002 when (former Mayor) Tom Murphy came up with minimal reductions in expenditures and revenues that didn't exist," Peduto said. [emphasis added]
I began to wonder. While the above is pretty clear, I wondered whether a fuller definition could be found someplace - more examples of "phantom revenues" and so on.

It isn't the first time Coucilman Peduto used the phrase to describe the city budget. Nor is the phrase exclusively Peduto's . From the Trib in December, 2004, in an article describing Mayor Murphy's (remember him??) decision not to run again:
Throughout the past year, Murphy repeatedly said he was taking responsibility for the city's near-insolvency. In a move that stunned some political observers, Murphy last month finally owned up to submitting "phony" budgets -- city spending plans balanced by one-time Band-Aids or based on phantom revenue.
From Peduto, we have this from the P-G in April, 2005:
Peduto said O'Connor did little to stop Murphy's "phantom" budget for 2003, which was balanced with unapproved payroll and alcohol taxes and ultimately plunged the city into near-bankruptcy. Peduto tried to replace the phantom taxes with a garbage collection fee and other plans.
I think "unapproved" is the important part. And this from November, 2005:
Peduto said other problems persist. For example, the mayor's proposed 2006 budget still calls for $6.6 million even though the nonprofits have pledged only $4.4 million.

"Put what the revenues really are, instead of using phantom revenues and placeholders like we did in the past," Peduto said.
It even showed up in an interview I did with him in September. Take a look:
The most important issue facing the near-term future of Pittsburgh, Peduto said, is the budget. Not necessarily the 2007 budget, but the financial problems facing the city in the next 5 years or so. How the city deals with its budgetary issues now will detemine its overall health for many more years to come.

He said that he'll be paying close attention to upcoming revenue projects - to spot any "phantom revenue" plans that might pop up. Started a couple of years before Act47 was implemented, "phantom revenue" streams (like revenue projections from the Casinos not yet built) have, according to Peduto, left the city on the 'brink of bankruptcy." The practice of relying on "phantom revenue" needs to be broken, he said. City government needs to be restructured with some services merged with the County, he said. [emphasis added]
So now we have another example - the projected revenues from Casinos not yet built. There's more from this P-G article from Mid-October:
Mr. Peduto said he's concerned about "phantom revenues" in the proposed budget and five-year plan. It counts on $17.7 million from a yet-to-be-built slots casino next year, $10 million from the state each year, and $5.7 million annually from nonprofit groups starting in 2008 -- none of which is guaranteed, he said.
Now we have some more examples. Anything that's added to the budget as revenue that isn't guaranteed or could possibly shift downward (like non-profit donations) is then called "phantom revenue."

Looking back at the P-G article I linked to yesterday, I wonder if these too are "phantom revenues":
Mr. Peduto said the five-year plan overestimates deed transfer and parking taxes, and state and nonprofit contributions. That, he said, would lead to yawning deficits beginning in 2008.

A consortium of nonprofit groups has said it doesn't plan to give the city money after 2007, but the city's plan counts on $5.7 million a year from such organizations through 2011.
Can I use an adage here? Isn't "phantom revenue" an example of "counting your chickens before they hatch"?

If so, and since the Mayor is dealing with millions and millions of dollars isn't it, uh well, incredibly unwise to do so?

I'm just asking.

A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives

A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives

November 14th, 2006

To My Conservative Brothers and Sisters,

I know you are dismayed and disheartened at the results of last week's election. You're worried that the country is heading toward a very bad place you don't want it to go. Your 12-year Republican Revolution has ended with so much yet to do, so many promises left unfulfilled. You are in a funk, and I understand.

Well, cheer up, my friends! Do not despair. I have good news for you. I, and the millions of others who are now in charge with our Democratic Congress, have a pledge we would like to make to you, a list of promises that we offer you because we value you as our fellow Americans. You deserve to know what we plan to do with our newfound power -- and, to be specific, what we will do to you and for you.

Thus, here is our Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives:

Dear Conservatives and Republicans,

I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:

1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.

2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.

3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.

4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.

5. When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you, too, will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that affect you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family, too.

6. Even though you have opposed environmental regulation, when we clean up our air and water, we, the Democratic majority, will let you, too, breathe the cleaner air and drink the purer water.

7. Should a mass murderer ever kill 3,000 people on our soil, we will devote every single resource to tracking him down and bringing him to justice. Immediately. We will protect you.

8. We will never stick our nose in your bedroom or your womb. What you do there as consenting adults is your business. We will continue to count your age from the moment you were born, not the moment you were conceived.

9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.

10. When we raise the minimum wage, we will pay you -- and your employees -- that new wage, too. When women are finally paid what men make, we will pay conservative women that wage, too.

11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.

12. We will not tolerate politicians who are corrupt and who are bought and paid for by the rich. We will go after any elected leader who puts him or herself ahead of the people. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side FIRST. If we fail to do this, we need you to call us on it. Simply because we are in power does not give us the right to turn our heads the other way when our party goes astray. Please perform this important duty as the loyal opposition.

I promise all of the above to you because this is your country, too. You are every bit as American as we are. We are all in this together. We sink or swim as one. Thank you for your years of service to this country and for giving us the opportunity to see if we can make things a bit better for our 300 million fellow Americans -- and for the rest of the world.


Michael Moore
Click here to sign the pledge)

P.S. Please feel free to pass this on.

November 14, 2006

The Budget - Round One

Yesterday, the OPJ wrote about Mayor Luke presenting his 2007 budget to the City Council.

While the coverage from the city's two major dailies differs in some respects, I am sure the Peduto camp is happy to see that the phrase "phantom revenues" is well placed in all of it.

Rich Lord at the P-G starts a bit snarky:
Making what amounted to his first campaign promises, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said yesterday that the city will solve more crimes, clean up more lots, sweep more streets, prune more trees and board up more houses next year than this year -- all on roughly the same budget.
And it only takes him four paragraphs to quote Peduto:
Councilman William Peduto, a likely mayoral candidate next year, immediately criticized the five-year plan accompanying the budget, saying it contained "phantom revenues."
In Jeremy Boren's first article at the Trib, Mayor Luke outlines how he came to all of the budget projections:
Ravenstahl said he formed the goals with advice from department directors and city budget experts, and many of them aim high. The number of vacant lots cleared in 2007 would be 590, up from 524 this year; buildings condemned would go to 472, up from 458; and major crimes solved per detective would increase to 72 next year, up from 66 this year.

Some of the goals anticipate a downturn: 40,000 potholes would be repaired next year as opposed to 41,000 this year; and the total number of major crimes cleared by police would go down to 4,122 in 2007 from 4,293 this year.
Though we have to wait nine paragraphs to see the quote from Peduto:
Ravenstahl must run to keep his job in a May primary and November election next year. His strongest opponent, Councilman William Peduto, criticized the mayor’s budget and five-year spending plan for including “phantom revenues” in the form of state grants and donations from nonprofits.
See? there it is.

In today's article, Boren rewrites:
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl put his proposed $419.5 million budget for 2007 in City Council's hands Monday and set a series of new performance goals for city services.

"We're moving on the right track back to fiscal responsibility," Ravenstahl said. "If you look at where we are now, it's significantly different."

The city was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2003, but budget planners now expect the city to post a $57 million surplus at the end of this year.
and moves Peduto's quote (while fleshing it out) up a paragraph:
But that's not stopping Councilman William Peduto, who is likely to challenge Ravenstahl in the spring mayoral primary, from criticizing the mayor's budget and five-year spending plan for including "phantom revenues" in the form of state grants and donations from nonprofits.

"This is no different than what we were doing in 2002 when (former Mayor) Tom Murphy came up with minimal reductions in expenditures and revenues that didn't exist," Peduto said. "I would suggest that this budget be sent back to the mayor and the oversight board with recommendations for changes."

Peduto noted the five-year budget plan anticipates $10 million a year in state grants and $5.7 million a year in nonprofit contributions that haven't been promised from 2008 to 2011. He said that will create a deficit that would balloon from $9.17 million in 2008 to $33.7 million in 2011.
Lord in the P-G has a good back and forth on this:
The mayor's 357-page budget does not raise taxes. It complies with state law by trimming the parking and business privilege taxes, and goes a step further by halving the amusement tax charged on tickets to events by nonprofit groups.

Mr. Ravenstahl said the city will end this year with $57 million in its savings account, and add another $5 million next year. Just three years ago, the city had almost no savings and was in the process of being designated as distressed under state Act 47.

Mr. Peduto said the five-year plan overestimates deed transfer and parking taxes, and state and nonprofit contributions. That, he said, would lead to yawning deficits beginning in 2008.

A consortium of nonprofit groups has said it doesn't plan to give the city money after 2007, but the city's plan counts on $5.7 million a year from such organizations through 2011.
This would seem to be a problem.

Then there's this from the Police:
Fraternal Order of Police President Jim Malloy said he was glad that Mr. Ravenstahl plans to increase the number of uniformed police to 900 next year -- a long-held goal for which the mayor had previously provided no timetable.

But Mr. Malloy said boosting the number of crimes city detectives are expected to solve, on average, from 66 this year to 72 next year will be tough. "Sixty-six is a hell of a lot of crimes to clear, let alone 72."
I wonder how many other projections of the Mayor's run along this line.

Looks like each side succeeded in getting the message out:

Mayor Luke say: The Budget's good - everything is going to get better.
Councilman Peduto say: It's based on phantom revenues - deficits will follow.

vs Stay Tuned!

Blogroll Update

We've finally updated the links to A Spork in the Drawer and MacYapper on our blog roll.

We've also added two local blogs:

Mark Rauterkus & Running Mates ponder current events
(Not sure why he was left off in the first place, but he pointed that out and he's on the roll now. I don't often agree with Mark, but his blog is an institution in these parts.)

The Burgh Report
(They're pretty new to be adding to the roll, but they are extremely solid so we're making an exception.)


Grow up! It isn't "personal"

I was going to write a post this morning on Mayor's Ravenstahl's ready-made excuse that any criticism of his actions are "political" or "personal" but The Burgh Report has saved me the bother.

It's all outlined in great detail here.

I highly recommend that you read it.

Big Bush / Little Bush

You just know that this cover of Newsweek must be killing The Decider:

It's got to look like his worst nightmare come to life for all the world to see.

Can you say "Oedipal"? I knew you could!

November 13, 2006

Election News!

What? Oh no, you say, we've had our fill. We've heard nothing but for the last couple of months. We did our bit. We not only turned out in droves, we maybe even made a couple of calls via MoveOn from our homes or canvassed one weekend...why, we're just getting over our hangovers from celebrating the Dems major pantsing of the Rethuglicans last week.

What possible election news could there be now?

And, no, this is not a post about presidential hopefuls in 2008 (Feingold out, Vilsack in).

I'm talking about those bastards at the Post-Gazette who just had to go and bring up the fact that Pittsburgh is facing a hot special election for mayor next year.

According to Rich Lord:

Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride!

He lists eight possible candidates for the Democratic primary:
Mayor "Opie" Ravenstahl
David Caliguiri
Mike Dawida
Rich Fitzgerald
Dan Frankel
Michael Lamb
Bill Peduto
Harry Readshaw
He also makes some news for those of you insisting that State Senator Jim Ferlo and Auditor General Jack Wagner would be running by quashing those rumors. Ferlo also publicly comes out in support of Opie.

The P-G article begins with:

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl spent 16 hours Tuesday hitting polling places and victory parties. Councilman William Peduto is attending some eight events a day and buttonholing campaign donors. Allegheny County Prothonotary Michael Lamb is conducting a poll.
Hmmm...So declared candidate Ravenstahl and as-yet-undeclared-candidate Peduto are running around campaigning like maniacs and Lamb is "conducting a poll." Why do I get the feeling that Lamb will finish no better than last year if he does actually run?

Anyhoo, as to be expected Mark Rauterkus takes major umbrage with Lord's list (do you want to announce now, Mark?) and The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat thinks outside the box to add a few more names that the P-G overlooked.

As I write this, our boy-mayor is walking into City Council Chambers to present his budget. He arrived flanked by Councilwoman Tonya Payne and Councilman Dan Deasy. Was there some official reason for this escort or have the alliances already been drawn?

Did we really need a reaction shot of Yarone "Bloggers Are Out To Get Me!" Zober applauding the Mayor?

Stay tuned to this blogging channel for answers to these and other questions in the upcoming days, weeks, and months of what's going to be one long-ass race for the top spot in Pittsburgh Politics.***

***If you don't count any Overlords or Oversight Boards.

Ruth Ann Dailey Spins - again

In a column today, Ruth Ann Dailey spun the following web:
There has been plenty of meanness at both ends of the political spectrum the past few years, much of it fueled by the unfettered, often uncivilized nature of the blogosphere and the strident tone of conservative talk radio. Both parties hit low notes recently with ads appealing to ugly racist cliches.

But whenever this nastiness has gotten bad enough to penetrate mainstream news sources, only the right-wing perpetrators have gotten pasted.

Anyway, RAD opens with:
That was the line ABC News took Thursday night in covering the White House summit between President George W. Bush and new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The reporter framed their meeting with some "very nasty" comments each supposedly made about the other during the campaign.

The only problem with the assertion is that ABC couldn't back it up with facts. While two clips aired of Ms. Pelosi making ugly personal attacks on the president's character and abilities, the only evidence against Bush was his disagreement with her comment that finding Osama bin Laden wouldn't make America any safer.
Her point, as I take it, is that there's nastiness on both sides, but while Democrats are nastier, the Republicans are spanked for it more. Oh, and George W. Bush is never nasty.

I guess she missed this story - it's from October, 31. Bush made the comment on the 30th.
President Bush said terrorists will win if Democrats win and impose their policies on Iraq, as he and Vice President Cheney escalated their rhetoric Monday in an effort to turn out Republican voters in next week's midterm elections.
A vote for the Democrats is a vote for the terrorists to win. He goes on:
"However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses," Bush told a raucous crowd of about 5,000 GOP partisans packed in an arena at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, one of his stops Monday. "That's what's at stake in this election. The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq."
No of course that's not a nasty attack. Note he's going with the "Democrat party" minor league insult. It's like calling a grown man "Bobby" (when no one else does) in order to make him seem immature and nothing like Robert, is father.

Now when did John Kerry botch his joke? Here, I'll give you a hand.
Speaking to students at California's Pasadena City College on Oct. 30, 2006, the former presidential candidate said, "You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in
October 30.

So which story made the headlines on all the National TV News? Kerry's botched joke, of course. Indeed, writes:
In contrast, at no point has NBC's Nightly News, ABC's World News, or the CBS Evening News even mentioned* -- much less led with -- President Bush's October 30 statement during a campaign speech that a Democratic victory in the midterm elections would mean that "terrorists win and America loses."
The asterix links to this sentence at the bottom of the page:
*Nexis search of NBC News, CBS News, and ABC News transcripts, October 30-31, for "The terrorists win and America loses."
No mention that night of Bush's incivility yet wall to wall coverage of a wooden man's failure at stand-up comedy. So tell me again, Ruth Ann, do you still think that the media was letting the Democrats get away with being nasty?

November 12, 2006

What Now?

David Shribman, in a mildly patronizing (and answer honestly, does he write any other kind?) opinion piece in today's P-G:
That was the easy part. Taking over the Congress, that is. Let's face the truth here: Scoring a triumph over Republicans who themselves were impatient with the Republican record during an unpopular war was no great achievement, despite the great deal of celebrating that it prompted among Democratic partisans. Indeed, the startling thing would have been if, under these circumstances, the Democrats hadn't prevailed.
See what I mean? It's like your dad saying, "Good job! You didn't screw up as badly as you could have. Congratulations!"
But they did, and though only a few days have passed since the big moment, a sobering wave should be passing through Democratic ranks right about now. They have Capitol Hill, the great prize. But power brings responsibility and, even in a system that permits and perhaps even encourages divided government, the burden now passes to the Democrats. They have to do something with that power besides reward themselves with chairmanships and patronage and the psychic rewards of office.
He then tut-tuts the first few days:
The Democrats have a plan for the first few days, and much of it involves getting sworn in and swearing not to do as the Republicans have done. That is not good enough. If they are looking at their 2006 victory as a staging ground for 2008, which is the political way of doing things, they are going to maneuver the president into one uncomfortable corner after another for the pure recreational value of it all. If, on the other hand, they look at last week's victory as a chance to change the country, there's going to be a lot less recreation but perhaps some value.
Good thing there's The New York Times has an article that answers all of Shribman's concerns. The Democrats plans can be summed up in a nearly forgotten word in Dubya's DC: Oversight.

The opening:
Congressional Democrats say they will press new legislation next week to restore the power of a federal agency in charge of ferreting out waste and corruption in Iraq and greatly increase its investigative reach.

The bills, the first of what are likely to be dozens of Democratic efforts to resurrect investigations of war profiteering and financial fraud in government contracting, could be introduced as early as Monday morning.

The move would nullify a Republican-backed provision, slipped into a huge military authorization bill, that set a termination date for the agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The agency’s findings have consistently undermined Bush administration claims of widespread success in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Oversight, the power wielded by Congressional committees to demand information and internal documents and to haul executive branch officials to hearings, by subpoena if necessary, is reverberating through Congress as a Democratic battle cry.
Ah oversight. It's a beautiful word, isn't it?

Conservatives had been screaming, Chicken Little-like, in the weeks before the election about the flurry of subpoenas they expected to see. But isn't that what's supposed to happen? Congressional Oversight?

Something that has been lacking entirely in Dubya's DC:
The current Congress has shown no inclination to investigate the Bush administration. Last year The Boston Globe offered an illuminating comparison: when Bill Clinton was president, the House took 140 hours of sworn testimony into whether Mr. Clinton had used the White House Christmas list to identify possible Democratic donors. But in 2004 and 2005, a House committee took only 12 hours of testimony on the abuses at Abu Ghraib.
But back to the Times. Other examples of oversight:
In the Senate, Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is in line to become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that seeking a new strategy for Iraq would be his primary focus, but that he would also look carefully at military contracting.

“There have been serious allegations and evidence of misconduct among suppliers,” Mr. Levin said. “And the taxpayers, of course, get socked on that. And the troops are not properly taken care of when that happens.”
The imperative to investigate financial misdeeds extends beyond the military. Congressional aides said that the House government reform committee under Representative Henry A. Waxman of California might also investigate spending related to domestic security and the response to Hurricane Katrina.

The Appropriations Committee, which is likely to be led by Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, is likely to review more closely spending like large supplementary requests for Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition, after the negative political fallout of corruption cases involving lawmakers, the Appropriations Committee is under pressure to curtail earmarks, which are spending measures for specific projects not sought by a federal agency but sponsored by a lawmaker — sometimes anonymously and often for a financial supporter.
Oversight. A lovely beautiful important word.

PodCamp Continues Today

"PodCamp is a FREE UN-CONFERENCE for people who create, enjoy or are interested in learning more about the following: blogs, vlogs, audio podcasts, web video, content networks and new media monetization. Show up, meet people, make connections!"

It started on Friday but there are plenty of events today including a 10:00AM bloggers panel*** in which yours truly will be one of the panelists. (Pittsburgh Filmakers, 477 Melwood Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, Room 304).

Full schedule of today's events here.
***Blogging, Buzz, and Broadcasting: A panel of popular Pittsburgh bloggers gather together to discuss blogging, how they use it convey their message, their thoughts on not getting lost in the noise of the blogosphere, and using new(er) media vehicles like podcasting with their blogs. Moderated by Mike Woycheck.

November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day - 2006

Today is a very important day. It's Veteran's Day.

It's the day we should all remember the sacrifices every veteran has made to protect the freedoms outlined in the Constitution. Were it not for the millions of men and women who've served in the Armed Forces, that piece of paper would just be, well, just a piece of paper long since consigned into the dustbin of history.

But where did the day come from? Why is it so important? Something from Kurt Vonnegut - a writer far far more talented than I will ever be - keeps echoing in my head whenever I think of November eleventh. Here's what he wrote in Breakfast of Champions (by the way "Dwayne Hoover" is a character from the book - go read it):
I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
Armistice Day was the end of The Great War. It was called The War to End All Wars, and obviously they got the name wrong. But the day speaks to us as a symbol of hope in recognition of the folly of calling any war "The War to End All Wars."

The lesson learned is that there will always be conflict and we should be eternally grateful to those who've sacrificed some part of themselves to protect us and our freedom.

Thank you.

Your URGENT Action is Needed: Protect Clean Air Standards for PA




Even though the elections are over, there is a two week lame duck session in the PA General Assembly. There are 47 legislators who won't be returning next year and have nothing to lose. State polluter lobbyists have convinced the Republican House leadership that, before their polluter friends leave office, they should force a vote on the House floor to kill the PA Clean Vehicles Program.

Clean air protections in Pennsylvania are under attack. Next Monday the Pennsylvania House will be voting on legislation - SB 1025 - that would repeal the Pennsylvania Clean Vehicles program, which we need to cut air pollution in our state. The Clean Vehicles standard ensures that all new vehicles sold in the state will be required to use the best available tailpipe pollution control technology. Already, ten other states nationwide have adopted identical standards to help protect public health by cutting down on smog and soot pollution from cars and trucks.

Moreover, the Clean Vehicles Program will save Pennsylvania consumers more than $8 billion in fuel costs and make us more secure by helping to break our addiction to foreign oil.

Call your State Representative at: 717-787-2372 You can find out who represents you at: or if you already know who your rep is, you can find their phone number at

Tell them to stand up for clean air protections and Vote NO on SB 1025.

You can also send a form email courtesy of Penn Future (click here), but I urge you to call them as well.


November 10, 2006

KDKA Tonight!

I'll be on John McIntire's show tonight on KDKA Radio.


Be there well you know the rest.

We'll be talking pop culture. We'll be talking politics. We'll be having a great time.

Listen in.

A Santorum Post-Mortem

From Brett Lieberman. He says, basically, that Rick Santorum's main problem was, well, Rick Santorum.
The national environment was tough for Republicans, but that wasn't why Democrat Bob Casey Jr. routed U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

Media scrutiny of Santorum might have been tough, but that didn't cost him the election, either.

It was all about Rick Santorum, and much of it was self-inflicted.
Can't really argue with that.
Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate election was a referendum on Santorum, a polarizing and often controversial figure in state and national politics who frequently was his own worst enemy, political analysts and insiders said.
Some details.
There was his book that criticized the "weird socialization" of public schools and suggested that women who worked instead of staying home to care for their children were being selfish.

There were questions over his Pennsylvania residency and allowing state taxpayers to pay for his childrens' cyberschool tuition while he lived in Virginia.

There was his involvement in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case in Florida, and his comparison of homosexuality with bestiality.
And so on.
Santorum could have inoculated himself from many, if not all, the personal issues that stung him.

He could have bought a house in southern Adams County, repaid the cyberschool, and not gotten involved in the Schiavo fight, Gerow said.

Santorum, who moved to Virginia in 1995, did consider buying a house in Gettysburg in 2001, but abandoned the idea because he felt it was too long of a commute to Washington, D.C., a close associate said.
Yea, he could have done all those things, but then the guy who did that wouldn't have been Rick Santorum.

They did, though, get one last jab into the media:
Santorum kept a low profile yesterday, declining media requests for interviews or a news conference. Aides said he wanted to spend time with his family before returning to Washington, where Congress is to return Monday for a lame-duck session.

But he also had no interest in talking with the media that he felt had been unfair to him.

"You guys ripped him so much," spokesman Robert Traynham said.
I'll let that one pass.

November 9, 2006

Dubya Spanks Karl Rove!

I heard it on the radio yesterday. It occurred during the earlier press conference:
Q Thank you, sir. During this campaign season some religious conservatives expressed support and appreciation for the work you've done. But some also expressed that they felt like they expended a lot of effort on your behalf without a lot of results. I wonder if you could tell us what parts of their agenda are still on your radar screen, and if you think they're right to be frustrated? And also, Mr. President, may I ask you if you have any metrics you'd be willing to share about your reading contest with Mr. Rove.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm losing. I obviously was working harder in the campaign than he was. (Laughter.)

Wow. Rove got spanked.

AP: Democrats Complete the Sweep


John McIntire went 4 for 4 this election. The AP calls it.
Democrats completed an improbable double-barreled election sweep of Congress on Wednesday, taking control of the Senate with a victory in Virginia as they padded their day-old majority in the House.
Jim Webb's victory over Sen. George Allen in Virginia assured Democrats of 51 seats when the Senate convenes in January. That marked a gain of six in midterm elections in which the war in Iraq and President Bush were major issues.

Earlier, State Sen. Jon Tester triumphed over Republican Sen. Conrad Burns in a long, late count in Montana.
More data:
The Associated Press contacted election officials in all 134 localities in Virginia where voting occurred, obtaining updated numbers Wednesday. About half the localities said they had completed their postelection canvassing and nearly all had counted outstanding absentees. Most were expected to be finished by Friday.

The new AP count showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236. Virginia has had two statewide vote recounts in modern history, but both resulted in vote changes of no more than a few hundred votes.
Looks like a done deal. I'll let dubya have a say:
"It was a thumping," Bush conceded at the White House. "It's clear the Democrat Party had a good night."
Perhaps now people will try to call the party by its correct name. The DemocratIC Party. They thumped the GOP.

An Altmire/Hart Postmortem

From the ever insightful JD Prose:
G. Terry Madonna, the director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, cited four factors in Hart's defeat: Hart took the race for granted ("She got caught napping, thinking that there was no way should could lose."); a backlash from voters for her support of Santorum and Bush; conservative Democrats abandoned her after three elections and returned to their party's candidate; and, "She ran into a guy who ran a first-rate campaign."

That guy was Altmire and he was spending Wednesday taking congratulatory calls from Democratic leaders such as soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Congratulations all around.

- Congressman-Elect from PA-4