Democracy Has Prevailed.

April 30, 2014

More Voter ID Fraud

Yesterday, this hit the news:
Commonwealth Court has refused to revisit its decision striking down Pennsylvania’s controversial voter ID law.

That means the law requiring voters to show ID cards is dead unless the Pennsylvania Supreme Court steps in.

In a 29-page ruling, Commonwealth Court judge Bernard McGinley wrote that the voter ID law failed to provide voters “liberal access” to valid forms of photo ID cards. He wrote that the law therefore potentially deprives thousands of voters of their fundamental right to cast a ballot, and so the ruling rendering the law unconstitutional must stand.
As did this:
A federal judge struck down Wisconsin's voter identification law on Tuesday, declaring that a requirement that voters show a state-issued photo ID at the polls imposes an unfair burden on poor and minority voters.
And so I found it intensely interesting that today, I find this on the pages of Scaife's Tribune-Review:
With looming midterm elections strengthening its politics-first propensity, the Obama administration denies the very real problem that is voting fraud based on a worthless 2012 study and a narrow 2005 Justice Department release.

Judicial Watch senior attorney Robert D. Popper, a former deputy chief of Justice's voting rights section, writes in The Wall Street Journal that President Obama, preaching to Al Sharpton's National Action Network choir, said a study “found only 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation in 12 years.” But Mr. Popper says that 2012 Arizona State University study admits so many gaps in its data that it's “hard to believe any valid conclusions ... can be drawn from” it.
I guess it's not too early to point out the financial entanglements connecting Scaife's paper with Judicial Watch.  According to Bridgeproject, about 94% of all the foundational support received by JW, came from the three foundations controlled by the Tribune-Review's owner, Richard Mellon Scaife.

That alone should skew the skeptic's eye regarding how credible this information is.

But let's go further.  What's up with that Arizona State University Study?  Here it is.  While they admit some limitations to the data, they do bring up an interesting little piece of information that I am sure would be of interest to Scaife's braintrust:
What about the highly publicized list of voter fraud cases gathered by the Republican National Lawyers Association?

News21 began its data-gathering effort in January 2012 by reviewing the more than 300 cases of alleged voter fraud collected by the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA). For years, the RNLA has been urging strict voter-identification laws on the grounds of massive amounts of voter fraud, and in 2011 the organization released a survey of voter fraud cases in America. However, the News21 analysis showed that the RNLA cases, now totaling about 375 cases, consisted mainly of newspaper articles about a range of election issues, with little supporting evidence of actual in-person voter fraud.
And here are the limitations:
Is this database complete?

No. Despite the huge News21 public-records request effort, the team received no useful responses from several states — for instance, the lone cases in the database from Massachusetts, Oklahoma , South Carolina and South Dakota all came from the RNLA survey. Even in states where some local jurisdictions responded, others didn’t. In addition, it is possible that some jurisdictions which did respond failed to include some cases. Another problem is that some responses News21 received were missing important details about each case — from whether the person was convicted or charged to the circumstances of the alleged fraud to the names of those involved. Still, with those caveats, News21 is confident this database is substantially complete and is the largest such collection of election fraud cases gathered by anyone in the United States.
But still the editorial in Scaife's paper quotes the attorney from the Scaife-funded organization who found fault.  Go figure.  Then there's this from the editorial:
And the 2005 Justice “analysis” that Mr. Obama said showed only 40 voters indicted for fraud in 2002-05? It's actually a news release that ignored state-level cases and didn't claim to cover all federal voter-fraud cases, Popper says.
Here's the release.  You can judge for yourself whether it's credible.  I mean it is from the Justice Department and all.  The Bush Justice Department.  Here's what the Times said back then:
Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.
And the braintrust's evidence for voter fraud?  Take a look:
Valid research — such as a 2012 Pew report about 1.8 million dead registered voters and 2.75 million voters registered in more than one state or a cross-check involving Virginia and 21 other states that found 17,000 voters registered in three or more states — doesn't fit Obama's agenda.
Yea and so think about it, if you live in one state and you move to another and register to vote there, or if you happen to pass away between the time you registered to vote and your name is taken off the voter rolls because you're dead, that's evidence that there's voter fraud.  VOTER FRAUD!!!

This wasn't even a good try.

April 24, 2014

The Right Wing Web. Again.

Mediamatters has an interesting piece up on the latest "blistering new report" on the Benghazi "scandal.

In it they look at the birthers, anti-muslim activists and conspiracy theorists who put together the report.  Who are they?  The Dailymail has some info on that:
The commission, part of the center-right Accuracy In Media group, concluded that the Benghazi attack was a failed kidnapping plot
Ah, Accuracy in Media.  That would be the media watchdog that receives, according to the bridgeproject, 93% of its foundation funding from foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife ($2,640,000 from Sarah Scaife and $1,720,000 from Carthage foundations divided by a total of $4,665,200).

Then there's this from Newsmax:
Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton says that had Benghazi happened during the administration of President George W. Bush, the mainstream media "would have been all over him."

Bolton told J.D. Hayworth and John Bachman on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV that he marvels at how the Democratic slant on major news stories, like Benghazi, by network news outlets in this country is accepted as the norm.
Bolton's comments come on the eve of the Citizens Commission on Benghazi's announcing its interim findings and new leads on the Sept. 11, 2011, attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that left four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, dead.
Yea, Newsmax would be the "news" service owned by Clinton Conspiracist Christopher Ruddy and Richard Mellon Scaife.

And of course Bolton has a regular column in Scaife's newspaper.  Here's how he's described at the bottom of a recent column.
John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute
American Enterprise Institute?  Oh, yea.  They've received $9,811,000 in Scaife money over the years.

Would any of this exist without Scaife's largess?

April 23, 2014

Teh (Latest) Birther Crazie

Of course it's from World Net Daily and of course OF COURSE it's from Jerome Corsi.  (Either point, let us remember) is enough to undermine its credibility.  But here we go - let's go take a look at teh latest Corsi Crazie.

From WND:
Self-proclaimed international intelligence expert Michael Shrimpton plans to launch a vigorous defense on charges of making false claims to British government officials that a terrorist nuclear attack was under way during the 2012 Olympics in London, raising the possibility documents and testimony he plans to subpoena will embarrass the U.K., German and U.S. governments.

As WND reported, Shrimpton, who faces a Nov. 10 trial, also appears in a 2008 video that began re-circulating earlier this year on the Internet in which he claims to have been privy to shocking intelligence information on Obama’s origins. Shrimpton contends to this day that the CIA collected DNA from then-Sen. Obama and a grandparent establishes that Stanley Ann Dunham was not Obama’s biological mother. He intends to subpoena from the CIA and British intelligence any records either agency may have on Obama’s DNA. [Emphasis added so you can more clearly see teh crazie.]
Yea, you remember the nuclear attack at the 2012 Olympics, right?  Here's what Shrimpton contends:
Meanwhile, Shrimpton has been indicted for having telephoned in 2012 the secretary of state for defense in London and declaring that a nuclear weapon stolen from the Russian submarine Kursk that sank in the Barents Sea on Aug. 12, 2000, had been smuggled into Britain.

Shrimpton said the smugglers were agents of a top-secret German intelligence agency that intended to detonate the weapon to cause massive damage and murder members of the Royal family and top government officials attending the London Olympics.
As part of his defense, for some reason, he's claiming the CIA knows that President Obama's mother wasn't actually his mother.  And according to the 2008 video linked above, Obama's father WAS his actual father (and not Frank Marshall Davis, as Corsi has reported here) but that his mother was one of his many mistresses.

Oh and some of the Presidential campaigns in 2008 (Giuliani, Clinton and so on) also knew that Obama's mother wasn't his mother.

Yea, you remember when that hit the news, too.  Right?

Does Shrimpton have any credibility?  No.  Does Corsi have any credibility by reporting on him?  No, again.

Trackin' teh crazie.

April 20, 2014

A History Lesson

An astute reader emailed me the other day with a link to this Mother Jones piece.  It begins thusly:
In a 1995 internal memo, President Bill Clinton's White House Counsel's Office offered an in-depth analysis of the right-wing media mill that Hillary Clinton had dubbed the "vast right-wing conspiracy." Portions of the report, which was reported on by the Wall Street Journal and other outlets at the time, were included in a new trove of documents released to the public by the Clinton presidential library on Friday.

The report traced the evolution of various Clinton scandals, such as Whitewater and the Gennifer Flowers affair allegations, from their origins at conservative think tanks or in British tabloids, until the point in which they entered the mainstream news ecosystem.
They (the White House staffers) even had a name for it: "The Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce."

Not a big fan of the forced alliteration, but before we get the conspiratorial content, there was something about the fancy phrase that caught my eye.  Chop off the detailing nouns and you get "stream of commerce."
Here's how defines the phrase:
As used in tort law, stream of commerce theory refers to a principle that a person who participates in placing a defective product in the general marketplace is strictly liable for harm caused by the product.
The important part is the phrase "placing a defective product in the general marketplace."

Guess just guess who's prominently featured on that memo from nearly 20 years ago.  Take a look:
Richard Mellon Scaife is in the vanguard of this aforementioned form of this media age political organizing. Scaife uses the $800 million Mellon fortune which he inherited to fund a virtual empire of rightwing newspapers and foundations.These newspapers and foundations, in turn, propagate Scaife's extremist views. Scaife along with a handful of other wealthy individuals and foundations use their power to control the Republican Party's agenda and viewpoints.
The controversy surrounding the death of Vince Foster has been, in large part, the product of a well-financed rightwing conspiracy industry operation. The "Wizard of Oz" figure orchestrating the machinations of the conspiracy industry is a little-known recluse, Richard Mellon Scaife. Scaife uses his $800 million dollar inherited Mellon fortune to underwrite the Foster conspiracy industry. Scaife promotes the industry through his ownership of a small Pittsburgh newspaper, the Tribune-Review. Scaife's paper, under the direction of reporter Chris Ruddy, continually publishes stories regarding Foster's death.The articles are then reprinted in major newspapers all over the country in the form of paid advertisements.The Western Journalism Center (WJC), a nonprofit conservative think tank, places the stories in these newspapers.The WJC receives much of its financial backing from Scaife.

Scaife is in the vanguard of a new form of political organizing. Wealthy right wing foundations and individuals finance conservative think tanks and non-profits. The think tanks and non-profits promote their benefactor's agendas and viewpoints. The think tanks and non-profits are able to spin their backer's agenda and viewpoints back into the mainstream and control the agenda of the Republican Party.

Scaife uses his financing of the fringe, right wing publications and non-profits to create a communications stream of conspiracy commerce.The stream effectively conveys the rantings of the fringe into legitimate subjects of coverage by the mainstream media.Here is how Scaife does it: 1) The right wing publications he owns or helps finance such as the Tribune-Review or American Spectator will do a Foster conspiracy story; 2) The story will then be picked up on the internet; 3) From the internet the story will bounce back into the mainstream media; and 4) From the mainstream media, a Congressional investigatory committee will follow up on the story which, in turn, gives the story even more undeserved legitimacy.
That was true in 1995 and it's just as true today.

And it's interesting to note that reporting of this story has found its way onto the pages of Scaife's Tribune-Review.  But look at the byline: Bloomberg News. Take a look:
Scaife, the newspaper publisher and Mellon fortune heir, is the central player identified in the dossier. He is singled out for sowing doubt about whether White House Deputy Counsel Vince Foster committed suicide and for his financial backing of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Republican organizations.

“Scaife uses his financing of the fringe, right-wing publications and non-profits to create a communications stream of conspiracy commerce,” the author, who isn't identified, wrote. “The stream effectively conveys the rantings of the fringe into legitimate subjects of coverage by the mainstream media.”
 Yea, if Scaife was signing my checks, I wouldn't want to write that either.

By the way, Vince Foster committed suicide.  No less a screaming liberal than Ken Starr said so:
An exhaustive three-year investigation by the office of Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr has reaffirmed previous findings that White House deputy counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr. commited suicide.

The report concludes that Foster was severely depressed about his work at the White House, took a revolver from a closet in his home, placed it in an oven mitt, and on the afternoon of July 20, 1993, drove to a Virginia park and shot himself. And it contains new forensic details that refute the conspiracy theories that have long surrounded his death – that Foster was a victim of foul play, or that his body was moved to Fort Marcy Park after his death at another location, perhaps the White House.
And where did many of those conspiracy theories come from?  Scaife's communication stream of conspiracy commerce.

But don't delude yourself that the stream's dried up (to continue the riverly metaphor).  For example, The Western Journalism Center is reporting on the recent Bundy lawlessness in Nevada:
After the federal Bureau of Land Management agents backed down from their intimidating stance at the Bundy Ranch last weekend, ample evidence has surfaced indicating the standoff between the government and the Nevada ranching family is far from over. Throughout the weeklong stalemate, members of the Bundy family were physically assaulted by armed officers, numerous cows were shot dead, and protesters faced threats of gunfire for merely expressing their outrage.

Immediately after what many considered a victory against a tyrannical federal agency, a number of leftist voices – most notably, Sen. Harry Reid – indicated the action against this family will continue.

In response, Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman sent a letter to Barack Obama, Department of the Interior Sec. Sally Jewell, and BLM Director Neil Kornze, laying out his position that any such action by the agency would violate the U.S. Constitution.
So one rancher in Nevada effectively steals a million dollars worth of grazing time from the guv'ment, refuses to pay up when caught, threatens the guv'ment agents sent to implement a court order and they're the ones violating the Constitution.

Only in the Scaife' funded fringe.

Thanks, Dick.

April 18, 2014

Born On This Date...

Every now and then I peruse the "who was born on this date" lists that can be found here and there across the internets and sometimes I find some interesting (and completely coincidental) musical pairings.

Today is just such a day - with two very important individuals from the history of music in 20th century America.

First, Leopold Stokowski, born this date in 1882 in London.  Here he is conducting The Petrushka Suite in 1967:

And then, Pigmeat Markham, born this day in 1904. Here he is rapping a decade or so before the Sugarhill Gang:

April 17, 2014

More Voter ID Hysteria From The Trib

Take a look at today's Tribune-Review:
Speaking of grove-variety pecans, “progressives” are in a tizzy-fit over a finding by Kim Strach, North Carolina's director of elections, that suggests nearly 36,000 people with the same names, birth dates and Social Security numbers voted both in the Tar Heel State and other states in 2012. Another 81 North Carolinians voted after they died, reports The Washington Times. But remember, voter fraud is a figment of the conservative imagination. [Bolding in original.]
Still is.

Here's the story:
This week, officials at the North Carolina State Board of Elections announced they had discovered possible evidence of widespread voter fraud in the battleground state.

By cross-checking North Carolina voter rolls with those in 28 other states, leaders of the board told state lawmakers they had found 35,750 records of people who voted in North Carolina and whose first name, last name and date of birth matched people who had voted in other states. More surprisingly, it also revealed 765 North Carolina voters in 2012 whose last four Social Security digits also matched those of people who voted in other states that year.
You might ask, where did they get this information? Did they generate it themselves? Is the source partisan or non-partisan?  And how reliable is it?

All good questions.  Here are some answers:
The cross-check of North Carolina voters was conducted by the office of Kris Kobach, the controversial Secretary of State in Kansas. A long-time Republican political operative, Kobach is known nationally as the architect of legislation cracking down on immigrants in Arizona and elsewhere, as well as severe voting restrictions.

Kobach launched the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program in 2005 as a free service to states — almost exclusively those led by Republican lawmakers — to flag voters who may be casting ballots in multiple states in the same election, which is a felony. In a traveling PowerPoint presentation Kobach’s office uses to pitch the program (for example, this recent presentation [PPT] in Indiana), they say it’s grown from four Midwestern states sharing 9 million voter records in 2005 to more than two dozen states states sharing 110 million files today.

Here’s how it works: A participating state sends its voter file to Kobach’s office, which compares it — free of charge — against the records from the other states. In 2013, the program flagged a staggering 5 million records of people whose names and date of birth appeared to match.
Wow.  Five million?  Is that evidence of five million double (and therefore felonious) votes?

No.  Did you know that the same Kris Kobach did the same sort of "research" for the State of Pennsylvania?  And did you know that they admitted a high number of "false positives"?  I'll let Vic Walczak of the Pennsylvania ACLU explain:
But the same materials, produced by the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office, candidly acknowledge that many of those potential duplicates are false positives: “Experience in the crosscheck program indicates that a significant number of apparent double votes are false positives and not double votes. Many are the result of errors voters sign the wrong line in the poll book, election clerks scan the wrong line with a barcode scanner, or there is confusion over the father/son voters (Sr. and Jr.).” The program thus flags a huge number of voters as potential duplicates, but admits a high error rate, elevating the ACLU’s concerns about how precisely Pennsylvania will handle voter-registration cancellations.
But that's not all, my friends.  No no.  There is more.

In hearing of this report Dick Morris wrote about the "widespread voter fraud" in North Carolina based on this research (or better, "research").  And doncha know, Politifact rated it false.

Their ruling?  Take a look:
Morris said that the large number of North Carolina voters matched with records in other states was proof that over 1 million people voted twice in the 2012 election. While Morris admittedly was extrapolating from the North Carolina data, his conclusion is flawed on several fronts.

The head of North Carolina’s board of elections did not claim that even the closest matches on name, birth date and Social Security numbers was conclusive evidence. She said more investigation was needed. The track record of the Interstate Crosscheck project shows that a tiny fraction of all potential matches represents any kind of voting fraud. In Kansas, out of more than 850,000 votes cast, only 14 names were recommended for prosecution and the Kansas Secretary of State reported no convictions.

In other states, database quirks, human error and the statistics of large numbers have been shown to trim the initial reports of widespread fraud down to the barest sliver of actual cases.

We rate the claim False.
False.  Scaife's braintrust really needs to do better than this.  But we all know they can't.

April 16, 2014

Yea...That Nevada Thing.

The Trib dutifully offers up it's confused editorial support.

Why do I say confused?

Oh where do I begin?  Let's start at where Scaife's braintrust ends its argument:
This dispute should be settled administratively, in court, not at gunpoint in the desert. The price of such government bullying, even if it stops short of another Waco-style catastrophe, is too high to risk paying — for those endangered, for liberty and for the rule of law. [Emphasis added.]
I might be getting ahead of myself - perhaps some of my readers don't know what's going on in Nevada.  Mother Jones has a good summary:
On Saturday, a large group of anti-government protesters converged on a Bureau of Land Management base camp in rural Nevada to protest the federal government's seizure of Bundy's cows. Bundy had for years grazed hundreds of cattle on protected lands controlled by the federal government and refused to pay the resulting court-ordered fines. This month, after nearly 20 years of consistently beating Bundy in court, the BLM moved to confiscate his cattle. 
The braintrust is still pushing the idea that this dispute should be settled in court.  But it already has been to court.  And Bundy has consistently lost.  Take a look at this from a recent court order:
This case arises out of Bundy’s unauthorized and unlawful grazing of his livestock on property owned by the United States and administered by the Department of the Interior (“the DOI”) through the Bureau of Land Management (“the BLM”) and the National Park Service (“the NPS”). On November 3, 1998, the Court issued an Order permanently enjoining Bundy from grazing his livestock on the former Bunkerville Allotment (“the Allotment”), and ordering him to remove his livestock from the Allotment by no later than November 30, 1998, and pay damages to the United States in the amount of $200 per day per head for any remaining livestock on the Allotment after November 30, 1998. On September 17, 1999, after Bundy failed to comply with the Court’s first Order, the Court issued a second Order directing Bundy to comply with the 1998 Permanent Injunction and modifying the trespass damages owed to the United States. Notwithstanding the Court’s Orders, Bundy continues to graze his cattle on the Allotment. Thus, the United States seeks a third Order as follows: (1) declaring that Bundy has placed or allowed his livestock to graze on the Allotment in violation of the Court’s Orders; (2) directing Bundy to remove his livestock from the Allotment within 45 days of the Court’s Order; (3) explicitly authorizing the United States to seize and impound Bundy’s livestock if they have not been removed as directed; (4) instructing Bundy that he may not physically interfere with an impoundment operation authorized by the Court’s Order; and (5) authorizing the United States to seize and impound Bundy’s livestock should he continue to violate the Court’s Permanent Injunction in the future.
And so I have to ask my friends on the Braintrust: What part of this don't you understand?  Bundy has been breaking the law for 20 some odd years, taking advantage of public property, and ignoring Federal Court orders.  The BLM was confiscating his cattle to pay the fines he accrued by doing all that illegal stuff.

How is that guv'ment bullying?

April 15, 2014

They're Not Even Trying To Be Scientific

From today's Tribune-Review:
Its “science” increasingly has come under fire. And the court of public opinion more and more is not on its side. So what's the foundering United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to do? Why, go for broke, of course. After all, the world should be very, very, very, VERY afraid.

On Sunday, the panel lamented that while not enough is being done to combat supposed “man-made” climate change ( n é, “global warming”), all is not lost — if only super-duper drastic measures are implemented now, now, NOW!

The “scientists” of global warming religion now insist that, even despite mitigating efforts, global greenhouse gas emissions have accelerated drastically since the turn of the century. And to limit the increase in the “global mean temperature” to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, they say greenhouse emissions would have to be reduced by up to 70 percent by 2050 and by up to 100 percent by the end of the century.
Notice all the irony quotation marks around the words:
  • science
  • man-made
  • scientists
  • global mean temperature
It's a rhetorical device meant to undermine the validity of the word being quoted.  It's the difference between saying that:
  • Scaife's Tribune-Review brings you the news.
  • Scaife's Tribune-Review brings you the "news".

But they've long since offered up any evidence to back up their assertions that climate science is merely "science" (since there isn't any evidence to back up that assertion).  They've now embarrassingly reduced themselves to irony quotation snark.

Meanwhile reality says:
The globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend, show a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C3 , over the period 1880 to 2012, when multiple independently produced datasets exist. The total increase between the average of the 1850–1900 period and the 2003–2012 period is 0.78 [0.72 to 0.85] °C, based on the single longest dataset available.
And the IPCC has offered up a neat graph:


So unless Scaife's braintrust can come up with some actual science (ANY actual science!) showing that this is all wrong, we'll have to continue to calling bullshit on their bullshit.

April 12, 2014

How About NOW? Can We Prosecute The Torture NOW?

From McClatchy:
A still-secret Senate Intelligence Committee report calls into question the legal foundation of the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, a finding that challenges the key defense on which the agency and the Bush administration relied in arguing that the methods didn't constitute torture.
The investigation determined that the program produced very little intelligence of value and that the CIA misled the Bush White House, the Congress and the public about the effectiveness of the interrogation techniques, committee members have said.

The techniques included waterboarding, which produces a sensation of drowning, stress positions, sleep deprivation for up to 11 days at a time, confinement in a cramped box, slaps and slamming detainees into walls. The CIA held detainees in secret “black site” prisons overseas and abducted others who it turned over to foreign governments for interrogation.
And here's where offensive gets offensiv-ier:
Some current and former U.S. officials and military commanders, numerous experts and foreign governments have condemned the harsh interrogation methods as violations of international and U.S. laws against torture, a charge denied by the CIA and the Bush administration.

They've based their defense on a series of top-secret legal opinions issued by the Justice Department beginning in August 2002. At that time, the agency sought advice on whether using the harsh techniques on Zayn al Abidin Muhammad Husayn, a close aide to Osama bin Laden who went by the nom de guerre Abu Zubaydah, would violate U.S. law against torture.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel found that the methods wouldn't breach the law because those applying them didn't have the specific intent of inflicting severe pain or suffering.

The Senate report, however, concluded that the Justice Department’s legal analyses were based on flawed information provided by the CIA, which prevented a proper evaluation of the program’s legality. [Emphasis added.]
Now remember, those legal "opinions" of August, 2002 and afterwards were later characterized by Jack Goldsmith, one time head of the Office of Legal Counsel, as tendentious, overly broad and legally flawed. and he withdrew them on the day he resigned.  The memos were reissued and then later formally withdrawn by the Obama Administration

So the CIA lies to Justice about the torture, the OLC within Justice issues a set of memos OK-ing the CIA's torture and then the CIA uses the memos as a "golden shield" to protect them against...prosecution.

But if it's all based on a lie, then when can we start prosecuting the torture?

April 10, 2014

Toomey, Casey And Porter - A City Paper Update

Yesterday, I brought you the P-G's coverage.

Today, it's Potter's City Paper.  Potter frames his piece around Debo Adegbile:
Last month, Casey and Toomey led a Senate vote rejecting President Obama's nominee to head the Justice Department's civil-rights division, Debo Adegbile. Adegbile's sin? While at the NAACP, he wrote a legal brief for Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of murdering Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Adegbile's argument — that Abu-Jamal's jury was discriminatory — was ultimately seconded by a judge. Before the Senate's vote, the head of the American Bar Association said Adegbile's brief "should be commended, not condemned." But not, apparently, if you're defending the rights of unpopular people: Casey explained his opposition to Adegible by noting Faulkner's death "and the events that followed ... have left open wounds."

Adegbile "promoted division among the American people, and blocked justice for [Faulkner's] family," said Toomey.
That was then, this is now.
But according to liberal group Keystone Progress, Toomey and Casey have been planning to grant a federal judgeship to a Pittsburgh attorney ... despite criticism that he may be divisive, too.

In late March, Keystone Progress raised flags about a purported "backroom deal" to make David J. Porter a federal district court judge.
And so on and so forth. Potter fades the argument a bit:
Not everyone agrees. "Even if everything they say about [Porter] is true, it's not that significant," says Bruce Ledewitz, a Duquesne University law professor who often comments on law and politics. The real power in the federal judiciary, he said, is on appeals courts: "You don't make law at the district court level" where Porter would serve. "You apply it as written."

If anything, he surmises, "I think [Porter] has come up because of anger over [Adegbile]: ‘Why are we making deals with these people, when they turn on an honorable man this way?'"

Ledewitz himself calls Adegbile's treatment "despicable. ... The idea that a lawyer is tainted by representation in death-penalty cases is disgusting." But as Congressional gridlock has left empty federal courtrooms across the state, Ledewitz says, "I can understand Sen. Casey making this deal."
While I can't disagree with what Ledewitz said about where the power resides in the federal judiciary (indeed Allegheny Counsel member Heather Heidelbaugh said something similar to the P-G), I'd have to point something out: In the future, when it comes time to nominate someone for one of those appeals court judgeships, where would they get the candidates?  Having Porter on the district court gives him a better shot at moving up, doesn't it?

April 9, 2014

The Casey-Toomey Porter Deal Hits The News

A scant 2 full weeks after I blogged on it, the P-G is reporting on the deal:
Pennsylvania progressives are looking to scuttle an apparent backroom deal on judicial nominations that the state's two senators are negotiating.

The arrangement would have Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., sign off on Pittsburgh lawyer David J. Porter's nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. In exchange, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., would defer to Mr. Casey on at least three of Pennsylvania's other eight judicial vacancies, according to opponents of the deal.
By the way, all those petitions?

33,000 people signed them.

Why would they?  Perhaps here's the reason:
In a post on its website, Keystone Progress characterized Mr. Porter as an extreme conservative who opposes abortion rights, gay marriage and restrictions on gun ownership. It notes that Mr. Porter leads the Lawyers Chapter of the Pittsburgh Federalist Society, that he opposed the 2009 nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that he wrote a Post-Gazette opinion piece asserting that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional and that he is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association.
The writer of the P-G piece, Tracie Mauriello, gets another side of the story - the local attorneys who believe Porter's not the ideologue that all those 33,000 petition signers believe him to be.  Take a look:
"He's a brilliant lawyer and he's fair-minded," said attorney Tina O. Miller, who has known Mr. Porter for several years. "I have never found David to be overly political. Whether it's as a lawyer advocating for his client or in bar association and community activities, he has always been willing to listen to everyone's viewpoint and give consideration to everyone's viewpoint and to be fair. "Those are exactly the qualities I would want in a judge."

Mary Austin, a health care attorney in Pittsburgh who considers herself a liberal, said she has never seen ideology influence Mr. Porter's legal work in the decade she has known him.

"I really don't know [his politics]. We've never discussed it," she said. What she does know is, "David is a very good lawyer and has shown very good sense."
That may well be the case.  It may well be the case that he's a brilliant lawyer and that whatever his politics, the people of Pennsylvania should set aside them aside and simply judge him by the quality of his legal work.

Yea, tell that to Debo Adegbile.

April 8, 2014

Ten Commandment UPDATE

There hasn't been much movement in the lawsuits regarding the unconstitutional Ten Commandment monuments in New Kensington and Connellsville, as far as I can see.

But please, if I am error about that, let me know.

I wanted to draw your collective attention to this piece I found in the Trib.  Looks like our friends in the Thou Shalt Not Move have been busy:
A 15th granite Ten Commandments monument was unveiled on Saturday at Liberty Baptist Church in Uniontown, where the Rev. Ewing Marietta has been leading a battle to keep the monument outside Connellsville Junior High School.

“We finally have our Ten Commandments monument at Liberty Baptist Church,” said Marietta, organizer of the Thou Shall Not Move group, to a crowd of about 200 people. “But we're not going to stop here. We plan to raise enough money to erect 100 monuments.”

The Rev. Alfred Thompson, pastor of St. Paul's AME Church in Uniontown, said Christian denominations need to unite to support the cause and bring attention to the word of God.
But look. They've erected the monument on church grounds.  Unless there's a paradigm shift in constitutional law, they're going to loose the fight to keep the monument on school grounds.  There's no question that they're free to make a commandment erection on church grounds.  It's just when they're looking to use the guv'ment to impose religion (by way of a stone monument at a public school) that they run in conflict with the Constitution.

But that's all a frame work.  Let's zip our eyes down the page a few paragraphs:
Marietta told the group that the nation was founded on Christian principles and the Ten Commandments that serve as a guide for the American people and the basis for American laws.

“We have a reason and a purpose to follow the word of God,” Marietta said. “We need to pray for our children and teach them the importance of God's word. We need to bring God back into the schools and our nation.”

Gary Colatch, a member of the Thou Shall Not Move group, said teaching children about Christianity is important because they will be the nation's leaders and its future.

“We need to raise our children and grandchildren to trust in God,” Colatch said. “We were a godly and Christian nation, and we need to return to those principles. God will bless America again if we return to our Christian beliefs and values.”

Before the Ten Commandments monument was unveiled, the group sang “God Bless America.”
Yea, about that song.  They do know it was written by someone (Irving Berlin, born Israel Isidore Beilin) who wasn't a Christian, right?  And they do know that his family had to escape Imperial Russia because they were the wrong religion, right?  The Cossacks reportedly burned the family home to the ground because the Beilins were Jewish.  It's a good thing that they found their way to the land of the free, where everyone's faith (or non-faith) is protected.

Perhaps instead of God Bless America, they should have sung this:
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

April 6, 2014

Embarrassing, Colin. Just Embarrassing.

Given the vast array of fact-checking tools (aka The Google) that should be available to the folks over at Scaife's Tribune-Review, you'd think that someone somewhere would check out Colin McNickle's opening quotation:
Why should freedom of speech and freedom of the press be allowed? Why should a government which is doing what it believes to be right allow itself to be criticized? It would not allow opposition by lethal weapons. Ideas are much more fatal things than guns. Why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinions calculated to embarrass the government?

— Nikolai Lenin (1920)
We all know who Lenin was right?  He's the guy who founded the Russian Communist Party and is the "Lenin" part of "Marxist/Leninist" thought, right?  But Colin I gotta ask you, wasn't that Vladimir Lenin?

So who's this "Nikolai" quoted?  Couldn't possibly be Vladimir's younger brother Nikolai who died in infancy in 1873 when Vladimir was only three, right?  The source of the quotation couldn't be that Lenin because that Lenin wasn't even alive in 1920, right?

Doesn't The Google work on Tribune-Review drive?  Took me about 5 minutes to check this.

So that's mistake #1.  Colin McNickle meant to write Vladimir Lenin when he wrote Nikolai Lenin.

Mistake #2 is even bigger, though subtler.  Can we even be sure that Vladimir said what Colin McNickle mistakenly said that Nikolai said?

And...we can't.  Did you know that no less a source than the Oxford Dictionary of Political Quotations puts those words in the mouth of... Winston Churchill?  Perhaps they got it wrong, those Oxfordians, as they're basing their assertion on just one bio of Churchill, just one bio of Churchill, written by Piers Brendon.

Maybe Brendon got it wrong.

So where does the attribution to Lenin (Nikolai) come from?  According to the Quoteinvestigator, it comes from H. L. Mencken's 1942 Book of Quotations.  This is probably as far back as McNickle went.  He should have gone farther.  But where did Mencken get it?  From Quoteinvestigor:
QI has traced this expression back to a diary entry that was written in 1920 by George Riddell who was a powerful newspaperman and close friend of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Lloyd George. Riddell later became the 1st Baron Riddell. The text in Mencken’s reference is very similar to the text in Riddell’s diary, but it is not identical.

The words attributed to Churchill also appear in the passage in Riddell’s diary. But QI believes that Riddell was describing a speech by Lenin and not the words of Churchill. Hence, QI thinks that the ascription to Churchill is almost certainly incorrect. let's look at what Riddell wrote.  He wrote of a conversation he had with Churchill:
I told Winston of Lenin’s speech, in which he said that the day of pure democracy was finished and that freedom of speech and the freedom of the Press were its two chief characteristics. “Why should these things be allowed?” he went on. “Why should a Government which is doing what it believes to be right allow itself to be criticised? It would not allow opposition by lethal weapons. Ideas are much more fatal things than guns. And as to the freedom of the Press, why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinions calculated to embarrass the Government?”
Brendon, obviously, thinks that Riddell is referring to Churchill in the second sentence and  Mencken thought Riddell was referring to Lenin.

But is there any actual evidence that Lenin actually said it?  QI writes that no one's been able to find any reference to the speech in Lenin's other than Riddell's diary.  For example it's not found in the Marxists Internet Archive.

And yet Colin McNickle said it was from Lenin (though the wrong Lenin, of course).  Isn't that embarrassing?

This is not to say, of course, that Vladimir Lenin was a friend to the free press.  Did he, in fact write anything about a free press?  Why yes, yes he did.  In Letter To Gavril Myasnikov, dated 8/5/20, Lenin wrote:
All over the world, wherever there are capitalists, freedom of the press means freedom to buy up newspapers, to buy writers, to bribe, buy and fake “public opinion” for the benefit of the bourgeoisie.
Sound familiar?  If you're reading the Tribune-Review you're actually reading a real-life example of what Lenin actually described.  Need an example?  How about:

But what Lenin was describing of course wasn't actually a press that is free - he's describing a press that's bought and paid for.

April 5, 2014

Toomey, Casey And Porter (A Petition Update)

Hey, remember this?

That was a blog post where I ask my Senator, Senator Bob Casey, what he's thinking making a deal with my other Senator, Senator Pat Toomey, to get David J. Porter a judgeship.  The thing is, while I am sure David Porter's a fine attorney, his politics lean heavily right ward.  That in itself should not disqualify him for a judgeship, the fact that a Democratic senator is looking to get him onto the bench is somewhat troubling.

Huffingtonpost wrote about it a few days ago (and, uh, a few days after I wrote about it - just sayin').

Well a few petitions have been set up (here, here and here) and guess what?

From Huffingtonpost:
Progressives in Pennsylvania have been working for weeks to derail an apparent deal between their U.S. senators to submit a conservative Republican judicial nominee to the White House -- and it looks like they're gaining momentum.

More than 20,000 people have signed a petition urging Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) not to recommend corporate lawyer David J. Porter to President Barack Obama for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. A coalition of state lawyers, advocates and community members collected the signatures and plans to deliver them to Casey on Monday, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition for Constitutional Values.
So what, again, is the problem:
"The coalition isn't just opposing Porter because he's a right-winger," said Michael Morrill of Keystone Progress, a statewide progressive advocacy group. "He is a radical right-wing activist and leader in anti-choice, anti-marriage equality, anti-environmental movements in Pennsylvania who is so far out of the mainstream that he can't adequately represent everyday Pennsylvanians."
And Rick Bloomingdale, the president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO had some issues as well:
Bloomingdale said he plans to personally talk to Casey about Porter next Monday when the senator is in Pittsburgh for an annual AFL-CIO convention. He said he understands that, in a state with a senator in each party, there are deals that have to be made on judicial nominees. But it's "troubling" to him that Toomey is pushing a nominee like Porter after holding up some of Casey's labor-friendly nominees in the Senate.

"So if he's going to play the ideological game, we certainly ask Sen. Casey to say [Porter] is too extreme for Pennsylvania," said Bloomingdale. "He's not going to be impartial on the bench."
Toomey blocked some of Casey's nominees and STILL Casey makes this sort of deal?

That is troubling.

Senator Casey needs has to ask himself this question:  If the GOP controlled the Senate and White House would Senator Toomey make a similar deal for a union friendly judicial nominee in exchange for three Porters?

I would think not.  I would think that if that were the case, the GOP would demand "bipartisanship" and then quietly redefine "bipartisanship" into "do what I tell you and we'll call that bipartisan."

Senator, if this is a deal as described above we need to know the details.  Your constituents and more importantly the people who voted for you have a right to know what you're getting in exchange for David J. Porter.

UPDATE: Thinkprogress is reporting this now.

April 2, 2014

How Long Has It Been??

Hey, you remember former County Councilman Chuck McCullough, right?

You remember that 52-page document that a Grand Jury presented?  Here's how the P-G described it:
A county grand jury today handed up a 52-page presentment that alleges Mr. McCullough, an attorney, and his sister, Kathleen A. McCullough, bilked money from the $14.5 million trust fund of an Upper St. Clair widow, Shirley H. Jordan, 90.

The investigation began after an article appeared in the Post-Gazette in April 2007 in which Mrs. Jordan denied that she donated $10,000 to each of four political candidates the year before, according to an affidavit that accompanied the arrests of Mr. McCullough and his sister.
And so on.  Did you see the date on that?

Chuck McCullough was arrested a little more than 5 years ago.

Has there been a trial yet?

Um, no.  In fact an astute reader emailed a legal document to me a few days ago.  Here's the first paragraph:
Appellant, Charles P. McCullough, appeals from the denial of his pre-trial motions to dismiss criminal charges, pursuant to this Court’s grant of McCullough’s pro se petition for review on May 23, 2012. After careful review, we affirm the trial court’s pre-trial rulings.
If I am reading the rest of it correctly (and as I am not an attorney, that's always a possibility), it says that McCullough's appeal to have the charges dropped were denied.  A point reinforced by my astute reader, who wrote:
Basically the Superior Court dismissed his appeal of the lower court's refusal to dismiss the charges. I assume he will now appeal to Pa. Supreme Court. If he loses there, I would think there is no reason the trial can't finally start, subject, of course, to whatever legal maneuvers he has up his sleeve. To me, the most interesting thing is that he is representing himself.
So how long has it been?

Let's put this in some context.
  • Jerry Sandusky was arrested in November 2011 and he was found guilty the following July.
  • Richard Poplawski killed three police officers in April 2009 and he was found guilty in June 2011
  • Jane Orie was indicted in April 2010 and was convicted March 2012
I am NOT saying that McCullough is guilty.  He has every assumption of innocence until proven guilty that everyone else has.  Nor am I saying that he's been charged with anything as heinous as killing a police officer or raping young boys.

What I AM asking is this: How is it that such high profile cases as Sandusky, Poplawski and Orie can go to trial and our friend Chuck is still filing appeals?

April 1, 2014

Can We Prosecute The Torture NOW??

In case you missed it, there's been a bit of conflict between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA recently.  From the Washington Post:
A behind-the-scenes battle between the CIA and Congress erupted in public Tuesday as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee accused the agency of breaking laws and breaching constitutional principles in an alleged effort to undermine the panel’s multi-year investigation of a controversial interrogation program.

Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) accused the CIA of ­secretly removing documents, searching computers used by the committee and attempting to intimidate congressional investigators by requesting an FBI inquiry of their conduct — charges that CIA Director John Brennan disputed within hours of her appearance on the Senate floor.
The CIA, in turn, charged the committees staffers with an unauthorized removal of some documents and requested an investigation.  From McClatchy:
The FBI is investigating the alleged unauthorized removal of classified documents from a secret CIA facility by Senate Intelligence Committee staff who prepared a study of the agency’s use of harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists in secret overseas detention centers, McClatchy has learned.

The FBI’s involvement takes to a new level an extraordinary behind-the-scenes battle over the report that has plunged relations between the agency and its congressional overseers to their iciest in decades. The dispute also has intensified uncertainty about how much of the committee’s four-year-long study will ever be made public.

The FBI investigation stemmed from a request to the Justice Department by the CIA general counsel’s office for a criminal investigation into the removal last fall of classified documents by committee staff from a high-security electronic reading room that they were required to use to review top-secret emails and other materials, people familiar with issue told McClatchy. The existence of the referral was first reported online Thursday afternoon by Time magazine.
So what's going on?  For that we go back to the Post:
The dueling claims exposed bitterness and distrust that have soared to new levels as the committee nears completion of a 6,000-page report that is expected to serve as a scathing historical record of the agency’s use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation methods on terrorism suspects held at secret CIA prisons overseas after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Well not it looks like someone's been able to take a look at that report. And it ain't good:
A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years — concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.

The report, built around detailed chronologies of dozens of CIA detainees, documents a long-standing pattern of unsubstantiated claims as agency officials sought permission to use — and later tried to defend — excruciating interrogation methods that yielded little, if any, significant intelligence, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed the document.
These would be the same enhanced techniques that former Vice President (and still unprosecuted war criminal) Dick Cheney defended recently:
According to Cheney, the enhanced interrogation tactics used do not fall under the scope of the 1949 United Nations Geneva Convention, which outlaws cruel, inhuman or any degrading treatment or punishment because the Geneva Convention does not apply to unlawful combatants.

The Bush administration considered terrorists as unlawful combatants and considered those undergoing enhanced interrogation tactics as terrorists.

“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” Cheney said. “The results speak for themselves.”
Yea, that torture.  The report, on the other hand, tells a different story:
“The CIA described [its program] repeatedly both to the Department of Justice and eventually to Congress as getting unique, otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives,” said one U.S. official briefed on the report. “Was that actually true? The answer is no.”
And then there's this:
If declassified, the report could reveal new information on the treatment of a high-value detainee named Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, the nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. Pakistan captured Ali, known more commonly as Ammar al-Baluchi, on April, 30, 2003, in Karachi and turned him over to the CIA about a week later. He was taken to a CIA black site called “Salt Pit” near Kabul.

At the secret prison, Baluchi endured a regime that included being dunked in a tub filled with ice water. CIA interrogators forcibly kept his head under the water while he struggled to breathe and beat him repeatedly, hitting him with a truncheon-like object and smashing his head against a wall, officials said.
And still none of this led to any "otherwise unobtainable intelligence" that could be used to protect the United States and its citizens.  It was illegal, immoral and it didn't work.

And this is what George Bush agreed to with his ballsy "Damn right."

Can we prosecute the torture now??