Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Witness

In the latest installment of my continuing series of follow up pieces, this one is a topic that has probably generated the most comment, either via emails or posted comments. It is the Drexel teen, Mia Sardella, who is accused of killing her newborn. See Momma Mia.

In an oddly worded caption, Witness recalls finding body in daughter’s car, the Inquirer reported on the Delaware County preliminary hearing in which Sardella was held for trial on charges of homicide, involuntary and voluntary manslaughter charges as well as abuse of a corpse. The "Witness"? Her mother:

The mother of the Drexel Hill teenager charged with killing her newborn testified yesterday about the shock of finding the corpse in the trunk of her daughter's car Jan. 22.

Stephanie Piscopo Leone was a prosecution witness at the preliminary hearing for her daughter, Mia Sardella, 19, a former Drexel University freshman.

Sardella was ordered held for trial on first-degree murder and related offenses by Magisterial District Judge Kelly A. Micozzie-Aquirre, who rejected lead defense attorney Arthur T. Donato Jr.'s contention that there was insufficient evidence to move the case forward.

* * * *

Questioned by Deputy District Attorney Michael Galantino, Leone said she had borrowed her daughter's silver VW Beetle because her own car was being inspected on Jan. 22. While in the parking lot at work, Leone said she noticed a duffle bag in the trunk and "wanted to see what was in it.

"I saw the baby's arm, and I shut the bag right away because I wasn't sure what I saw," Leone said, her voice cracking.

She said that after a coworker confirmed the discovery, she drove Leone to the Piscopos' residence in Drexel Hill.

Piscopo testified that his wife phoned him at work and he "canceled the rest of" his day and drove to Drexel University to pick up his granddaughter, whom he described as "quite distraught."

"The way she described the events . . . it was shocking to her that she was delivering a baby," he said.

Piscopo said his granddaughter was alone in her room on Jan. 1 - home on holiday break - when the baby was born. He said she did not recall the birth itself but remembered wrapping the body in a blanket because "the baby was not alive."

See also, Teen Mother Of Baby Found In Car Trunk To Stand Trial.

As a mother of a teenage daughter, I can only begin to imagine how devastating this is for Sardella's mother -- and the rest of the family. It is often said that the death of a child is the worst thing that a parent can ever experience. This may be comparable.

I think the Comments made at Momma Mia and elsewhere about this case highlight the complexity of the emotions that are involved in a situation such as this. The LATimes also has an interesting article on the phenomenon of what makes a mother kill her newborn, When mothers keep a deadly secret. All I know is that I can't judge what I would do -- in either situation -- as a mother or a daughter. I may profess a belief that I would act a certain way, but thankfully, I've never had to find out whether my actions would match my words.

Friday, September 28, 2007

By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea


From the Mountains of Mohonk, A Castle Retreat, to the Beaches of Cape May, The Southern Mansion, it's the time of year to reflect on fall and fun.

As I put it last year:

The Lady Lawyers Who Lunch (a/k/a my officemates) have decided to take a long lunch. We are off for a long week-end retreat. A little business, a little booze, a lot of fun.

This one, as anyone who knows me can guess, was my pick. What better setting than a restored Cape May mansion built circa 1860, set on one and a half acres of gardens, centrally located in the historic district, within a 5 minute walk to the best beaches, shops and restaurants.

I'm especially looking forward to this retreat/respite, since I need to have surgery (not major) in the next week or so. In fact, tests, doctor's appointments (coupled with a daughter who had to get strep throat at the same time) caused me to have to delay my trip to the shore by a day.

The Ultimate Carpetbagger

I should have known that once I mentioned his name, that he'd make an appearance. My favorite ex Senator, Rick Santorum, is playing ball boy these days, tossing the first pitch at a recent Barnstormers' game in Lancaster, Rick Santorum is having a ball. In town for a fundraiser, like the original carpetbaggers who headed South to make money, Ricky has been busy since leaving Congress:

Santorum has remained active in law and foreign policy since his departure from the U.S. Senate, where he rose to the rank of Senate Republican Conference chairman, the third-highest rank in the GOP's Senate leadership.

He now works as an attorney for Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott in Washington, D.C. He's also a senior fellow with Ethics and Public Policy Center, which is "dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy," according to the group's Web site, www.eppc.org.

"You know the old saying, 'When God closes a window, another one opens,' " Santorum said. "Well, I've been jumping through a lot of windows."

No -- he said he was jumping through not out a window. Don't get your hopes up.

The Intelligencer Journal article concluded with this tidbit: "Santorum has said he doesn't plan to run again for office."

Being a true conservative Republican, that surely means he's already planning his next campaign. Fancy that! Brett Lieberman of Pennsyltucky Politics hears otherwise, First he'd have to move back to Pennsylvania:
But after the inevitable challenge over his residency, Leesburg, Va.-resident and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is considering running again for statewide office in Pennsylvania.

This time it would be for governor in 2010.

Santorum's interest in becoming governor, a good launching point for a potential national run, has been speculated about long before his defeat last year at the hands of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa."

The latest speculation comes from the pages of this week's conservative American Spectator magazine . . .

"Rick is a politician. He loves the competition and the process of running. He's getting back in and he's young enough that a gubernatorial run would set him up for greater opportunities politically down the road," one Santorum adviser is quoted as saying.

The inevitable press releases and stories can almost write themselves. There's the cyber school controversy in which Pennsylvania taxpayers footed the bill to educate his kids while living in Virginia. The residency issue alone will fill enough newspaper stories to kill a decent size forest. President Bush won't be in office, but there will no doubt be plenty of reminders of his unyielding loyalty to the unpopular president, the Iraq war and calling former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a great leader. There's his role in the K Street Project.

Oh, we could go on...

We sure can. There is definitely something off about this guy, besides the fact that he a hypocrite and a liar. See e.g., Simply False. Besides his membership in the conservative Catholic Cult Opus Dei, I just can't get past the feeling that he has some hidden demons. At some point, I wouldn't be surprised to hear about Santorum's scandal: whether it's a Larry Craig moment, a George "Macaca" Allen gaff, or Mike Vikers foray.

In the meantime, Santorum's trying to scare us in other ways. As Lieberman says:
Santorum's been keeping up his profile exactly where he left off at the end of the 2007 campaign -- by scaring people. His "Weekly Threat Roundup" at the conservative Ethics & Public Policy Center, where he runs the "America's Enemies" program, and his upcoming book, "The Gathering Storm" that's due out next year should help remind Pennsyltucky voters what he's all about.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Bruce Beattie, Daytona Beach News

Another Anonymous Post

I first wrote about the New Year's Eve Party from Hell in It's My Party, I'll Cry if I want to, in a hilarious story that went from the ballroom to the courtroom. Anthony DiMeo, who's Renamity publicity firm threw the party in Center City Philly, ended up suing blogger Tucker Max who mocked the party and solicited readers to do the same, which they did with vim & vigor. DiMeo claimed some of the comments were defamatory and tried to hold Tucker Max responsible.

The Inky's Dan Gross describes the recent decision affirming the district court's dismissal of the case last year, A break for bloggers:

GOOD NEWS for bloggers and their readers who like to talk s---.

The U.S. Court of Appeals Third Circuit h-as dismissed blueberry heir Anthony DiMeo III's motion to reverse a lower court's dismissal of the libel/defamation-of- character suit DiMeo filed against blogger Tucker Max.

DiMeo sued Max in early 2006 over several threads full of reader comments at tuckermax.com mocking DiMeo with various degrees of profanity and crude humor over his firm Renamity's disastrous New Year's Eve soiree at the former Le Jardin in the Art Alliance. The booze ran out in an hour, art was stolen and upset partygoers demanded refunds.

DiMeo told us the other day that he'd been so busy planning Thursday's 2007 Young Professionals Ball on Rittenhouse Square that he hadn't learned of the court's decision until we called. Realizing he may have exhausted his legal recourse, DiMeo says, "Without a doubt, Tucker Max has exploited my good name and image, and he and his following have published scurrilous lies about me on his Web site . . . I did not file the DiMeo v. Max lawsuit out of vengeance but to stop further damage to my good name, character and solid reputation."

In other words, boo-hoo hoo, woe is me, says DiMeo. On the other hand, this is good news for bloggers. As noted at Daily Kos, in Bloggers and Defamation:

In upholding Judge Dalzell's opinion last week, the Third Circuit had no problem agreeing that 'Max’s website is an interactive computer service because it enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server' aand that because 'DiMeo does not allege that Max authored the comments on the website or that he is an information content provider,' Max is immune from suit for his commenters' speech.

The moral of the case? When you have something really outrageous to say, do it as an anonymous poster.

For more details on the original decision by Judge Dalzell from the Legal Intelligencer, see Judge: Bloggers Entitled to Immunity Under Communications Act.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cartoon of the Day



* Matt Davies, The Journal News

No Safe Haven

I have blogged about the appalling degree of violence in Philly, which seems to grow daily. See A City's Deadly Toll (304 murders through Saturday). Evidence of the mayhem hit closer to home with the news of a mugging in my neighborhood, which injured the victim and killed his dog. Turns out I know the injured man. Rich Feder, who's a chief deputy city solicitor and a really nice person, was walking his dog a block or so from my home, when he was attacked.

The Inquirer reports, in Robber beats victim, kills his dog:

A robber who held up a West Mount Airy man who was walking his dog late Thursday became so incensed when he found out that his mark was carrying little of value that he took it out on his victim and the animal.
When the assault was over, Richard Feder, 48, had suffered a broken nose and his dog, a 5-year-old Labrador-border collie mix named Precious, was dead.

You need to carry cash when walking to dog to satisfy the robbers? Things are really bad when society has devolved to this level. As the article continued:

The robber then searched Feder, but came up empty. He became so angry that he pistol-whipped his victim and shot at Precious. At that point, both men ran off in opposite directions.

Feder said that when he got to Wayne Avenue, he flagged down a taxi and returned for his dog. By then, Precious was dead.

Feder was taken to Chestnut Hill Hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose and a swollen eye.

"The injury is nothing compared to the fear," Feder said yesterday. "It was very fast, and very scary."

He said he could not remember anything like this happening in the neighborhood.

"This is a really safe neighborhood," Feder said, adding that he walked his dog every night. "This stuff doesn't happen here."

Feder, a lawyer, said things could have ended up worse.

I'm "terribly sad for my dog and my family," he said, "but I am thankful the shot didn't come at me."

I'm terribly sad for us all.

* Picture of a 5 year old lab/border collie mix.

Jena


It does my heart good to see that there are still those times when the injustice speaks loudly enough that it galvanizes people to action. This is especially true in this case, when many of those who got involved were younger people. Of course, I'm talking about the Jena 6. See, e.g., Jena Ignites a Movement. There was the big rally in Jena, Louisiana, and many other places across the country, including the Philly area. Region adds a voice to Jena protests.

As Gary Younge of The Nation wrote, 'Jena Is America':

'Jena is America,' says Alan Bean, executive director of Friends of Justice, who has been working with the Jena Six. 'The new Jim Crow is the criminal justice system and its impact on poor people in general and people of color in particular. We don't always get the exotic trimmings like the nooses.'
And America responded.

Sure, the issues in the Jena case may not be perfectly clear-cut, but neither is life. The reality is that racism is alive & well. All you have to do is see the backlash from some of the racists out there, who are promoting retaliation against the Jena teens, see Neo-Nazi Hate Group Posts Personal Information, Threatens Jena 6 (no link to actual hate site is provided). As was noted in Jena 6 case isn't perfect, but it's clear, the observation was made:
What's far less murky in the Jena 6 case is that this is one of unequal justice. Far harsher criminal charges were brought against the black youths for fighting than the white students for similar infractions. What's true also is that all of the students equally have used poor judgment and all should be held accountable. But considering the circumstances, none of them should have to pay with their lives by possibly facing long prison terms. And that's what the black students are facing.
And one final note on this -- I especially like the fact that this issue was first given voice through the use of blogs. Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune describes, Blogs help drive Jena protest:
There is no single leader. There is no agreed schedule. Organizers aren't even certain where everyone is supposed to gather, let alone use the restroom. The only thing that is known for sure is that thousands of protesters are boarding buses at churches, colleges and community centers across the country this week, headed for this tiny dot on the map of central Louisiana.

What could turn out to be one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in years is set to take place here Thursday, when Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, popular black radio talk show hosts and other celebrities converge in Jena to protest what they regard as unequal treatment of African-Americans in this racially fractured Deep South town.

Yet this will be a civil rights protest literally conjured out of the ether of cyberspace, of a type that has never happened before in America—a collective national mass action grown from a grassroots word-of-mouth movement spread via Internet blogs, e-mails, message boards and talk radio.

Jackson, Sharpton and other big-name civil rights figures, far from leading this movement, have had to scramble to catch up. So, too, has the national media, which has only recently noticed a story that has been agitating many black Americans for months.
See also, the field negro. This is particularly inspiring, because we know that the press doesn't act as a reporter of news much these days, instead preferring to serve in the role of parrot for the Administration, when not bombarding us with the entertainment news of the day. It's nice to know that there is still a way for us to get the real news, with individuals being able to spread the word.

For more on the story, including a Petition, see Color of Change, Jena Six.

* Tony Auth, NYTimes

Sunday, September 23, 2007

F is for Filibuster

It wasn't all that long ago, before the Democrats took over the majority in Congress and history was rewritten, that the Republican majority castigated the Democrats for using, or threatening to use, the filibuster. See e.,g, Fight for the Filibuster and The Democrats and the filibuster. Former (oh, I still love saying that) Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum even suggested that they were unconstitutional -- in the hands of Democrats, of course. Democratic Filibuster Unconstitutional?

Santorum was correct about one prediction -- that the Republicans would freely use the filibuster when the GOP was back in the minority. As he said "we will have filibusters as far out as the imagination can comprehend." True, that.

Of course, since the Republicans still control the discourse in this country -- even if not Congress -- you will never see the "F word" used in polite media company, whether newspaper, TV or radio. Oh no -- it cannot be called a filibuster.

As was noted at Talking Points Memo,
A Filibuster By Any Other Name . . .:

The AP story I linked to below in the post on habeas corpus rights for detainees being rejected by the Senate says the vote was 56-43 "against the bill." ZK writes, "Last I checked that meant 56 Senators voted FOR the bill. You should put up a warning about that - the media sure has changed how they report these votes." Indeed it has, as we noted back in July.
McClatchy Washington Bureau addressed the issue not too long ago, analyzing the unprecedented use of the filibuster by Senate Republicans, Senate tied in knots by filibusters:
This year Senate Republicans are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before, a pattern that's rooted in — and could increase — the pettiness and dysfunction in Congress.

* * * *

Seven months into the current two-year term, the Senate has held 42 "cloture" votes aimed at shutting off extended debate — filibusters, or sometimes only the threat of one — and moving to up-or-down votes on contested legislation. Under Senate rules that protect a minority's right to debate, these votes require a 60-vote supermajority in the 100-member Senate.

Democrats have trouble mustering 60 votes; they've fallen short 22 times so far this year. That's largely why they haven't been able to deliver on their campaign promises.

Although the trend has been upward over the years, Republicans have made it a way of life. In addition to votes on the War in Iraq, McClatchy observes:

This year Republicans also have blocked votes on immigration legislation, a no-confidence resolution for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and major legislation dealing with energy, labor rights and prescription drugs.

Nearly 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year have been cloture votes. If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes — 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002, according to the Senate Historical Office.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., forced an all-night session on the Iraq war this week to draw attention to what Democrats called Republican obstruction.

"The minority party has decided we have to get to 60 votes on almost everything we vote on of substance," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. "That's not the way this place is supposed to work."

Providing a historical background, the article continues:

Associate Senate Historian Don Ritchie said that since the nation's start, dissident senators have prolonged debate to try to kill or modify legislation. The word "filibuster" — a translation of the Dutch word for "free-booter" or pirate — appears in the record of an 1840s Senate dispute about a patronage job.

From Reconstruction to 1964, the filibuster was largely a tool used by segregationists to fight civil rights legislation. Even so, filibusters were employed only rarely; there were only three during the 88th Congress, which passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 after two months of filibustering.

Filibusters were infrequent partly because the Senate custom of civility prompted consideration of minority views — and partly because they were so hard to overcome that compromises were struck. In 1917 cloture rules for ending filibusters were put in place, but required a two-thirds vote — so high it was rarely tested.

Post-Watergate, in 1975, the bar was lowered to three-fifths, or 60 votes, and leaders began to try it more often.

By the early 1990s, tensions between then-Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine and Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas upped the ante, and the filibuster-cloture spiral has soared ever since as more partisan politics prevailed. The use of filibusters became "basically a tool of the minority party," Ritchie said.

What is as bad, if not worse, than the use of the tactic, is the fact that the press does not accurately reflect the effect of the Republican's actions, allowing the GOP and the President cover, while making the Democrats look like do nothings (as though they needed help in that area).

Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly, commented on this phenomena in looking at two recent filibusters:

I see that Republicans have successfully filibustered two more bills today: one to give a House seat to the District of Columbia (57-42) and one to restore habeas corpus rights to terrorism suspects (56-43).

* * * *

As things stand, though, Republicans will largely avoid blame for their tactics. After all, the first story linked above says only that the DC bill 'came up short in the Senate' and the second one that the habeas bill 'fell short in the Senate.' You have to read with a gimlet eye to figure out how the vote actually broke down, and casual readers will come away thinking that the bills failed because of some kind of generic Washington gridlock, not GOP obstructionism.

So, for the record, here are the votes. On the habeas bill, Democrats and Independents voted 50-1 in favor. Republicans voted 42-8 against. On the DC bill, Democrats and Independents voted 49-1 in favor. Republicans voted 41-8 against. Would it really be so hard for reporters to make it clear exactly who's responsible for blocking these bills?

The negative impact of this lack of reportage is noted by Hullabaloo:
The fact that this new 60-vote gambit is purely to protect the president to ever have to veto anything that's popular never comes up. Neither, however, does the the press bother to report this as unusual or that the Republican congress is, in effect, vetoing popular legislation by filibustering everything in sight. In fact, the press is reporting this as if the democrats have failed to move their popular legislation even though they have a majority --- never mentioning that a majority is no longer enough, something that I doubt the public knows.

George Bush Don't Like Poor Kids

George Bush (and his cronies) don't like:

* poor kids, Bush: Kids' Health Care Will Get Vetoed,
* old people, More Profit and Less Nursing at Many Homes,
* and sick brown people, U.S. Rule Limits Emergency Care for Immigrants.

And let's not forget -- he sure don't like black people:


video

(Video via Guerrilla News Network)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lose Some, Win Some

While everyone else has been obsessed with OJ's latest legal travails, I have followed that other legal travesty, the case of DC Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson against his dry cleaners, the Chungs. The Case of the Purloined Pants, as I fondly refer to it, is another one of those stories that I've followed as it progressed through various stages. See,e.g., Hell Hath No Fury . . ., They Beat the Pants off Him, and The Appeal of the Pantload.

This case presents all that is wrong with our legal system. I have been waiting to hear that Pearson has officially lost his job as ALJ, by being denied a reappointment to the court, No Pants, No Job. Instead -- in a sad chapter to the tale, I see that the Chungs have decided to close the dry cleaners establishment, Custom Cleaners. As the Washington Post, Pearson v. Chung The Latest Victim, reports:

The latest victim in the $54 million pants lawsuit is Custom Cleaners itself. According to the Chung's lawyer, Christopher C.S. Manning: they have closed Custom Cleaners dry cleaners due to the revenue losses and emotional toll resulting from the Pearson v. Chung lawsuit. The business has been sold. Having had to close two of their three dry cleaning stores since the initiation of the lawsuit, the Chung family is currently focused only on their Happy Cleaners store located at 1119 7th Street, NW in Washington, D.C. The Chungs hope that a successful Happy Cleaners store will help them someday rebuild their businesses in the aftermath of the lawsuit.
The Post's Marc Fisher has been the source for the story behind the story of this sorry tale. In Pants Update: The Dry Cleaners Shuts Down, he notes:

Roy Pearson, the D.C. administrative law judge whose $67 million lawsuit against his neighborhood dry cleaners turned into a worldwide lesson in how one obsessed person can hijack the American legal system, lost his case in court, but today delivered the crowning blow to the owners of Custom Cleaners:

Bowing to the emotional and financial strains of two years of litigation, Soo and Jin Chung today announced the closing of the dry cleaners that may or may not have lost a pair of Pearson's pants that he put in for a $10 alteration in 2005.

"They were just tired of the whole ordeal," the Chungs' daughter-in-law, Soo Choi, told me today. "A lot of people view this comically because the case is so outrageous, but my mother-in-law has gone down four dress sizes from this whole ordeal. They just want to put this in their past."

As a former litigator (and sometimes participant as corporate counsel even now), I can attest to the devastating toll that a trial can take on the parties. In addition to the ungodly cost of litigation, it is terribly consuming and emotionally draining, no matter the case. When you are dealing with a case like this, that is so drawn out and outrageous in its lack of merit, it causes the defendants to suffer even more. The worst part is the feeling of helplessness -- there is no way to resolve the matter when one party remains steadfast in his unreasonable, intractable position.

In a sort of good news/bad news setup, our legal system is based upon an open system of justice -- the courthouse is open to all. Unfortunately, that presumes that people will act appropriately, which is not always the case. The abusers, like Pearson, cause the system to break down, as occurred here. We need to come up with a way to permit those like Pearson to be penalized for taking advantage of the rules.

What makes the whole things especially difficult in this case is the fact that Pearson has no resources, so any financial action against him is worthless. If the Chungs had pursued their claim for attorneys fees, they no doubt would have prevailed. The Judge make clear that she was inclined to rule that way. However, they would have been wasting additional money even trying, since they couldn't have recovered anything from him anyway -- he's judgment proof.

Another nasty aspect of this case is the reaction of many who have followed it. There is a groundswell of negative sentiment towards Pearson (which I share), but some of it borders on racist, which is unfortunate. He's a jerk, period. Baldness*, as I call it, is not endemic to one particular race or nationality.

Also, I have seen a tendency to blame the Chung's lawyer for the cost involved, which is misplaced anger. The problem is due to Pearson for bringing and aggressively pursuing this matter, to increase the costs involved. I believe that Chris Manning took this case at a reduced rate, but he is part of a small firm, so he cannot afford to do it pro bono (as someone in a similar position, I should know). And I understand that the appeal is being done on a pro bono basis. Plus, there was a generous outpouring by many to cover the legal costs (which is one of the good aspects of this case), so that alone was not the reason for the action of the Chungs. I'm sure it was the emotional cost (and the impact on the business itself) which precipitated the decision to close.

I hope the Chungs are able to slowly put this disaster behind them and move forward. Fisher adds:

The Chungs will now work exclusively at their original shop, Happy Cleaners, on Seventh Street NW, across from the D.C. Convention Center. Soo Chung was there this afternoon, mopping the floor, waiting for customers. For the first time in a very long time, she was able to smile about her work. "This is our first store, first job," she told me. "When we came to America, we worked here. Good job. Good store."

Joe Gandelsman of the Moderate Voice said it best -- Pearson may have lost the battle, but he won the war. Unseemly Pants Suit Ends With Dry Cleaner Closing Shop.

One can only hope that his turn will come -- with the loss of his job.

For the release issued by counsel to the Chungs on the closing, see Breaking (Your Heart) News: Chungs Close Custom Cleaners. For more on this sad story, see Chungs Close Shop after Roy Pearson Suit.

(People with Baldness often suffer from "Big Asshole, Little Dick" syndrome)

Tags: , ,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

* Jeff Danziger, NYTimes

Help Needed

Help Wanted:

Nanny w/ light housekeeping duties
for Main Line Estate, located in Villanova.
Excellent pay & benefits,
including a bonus paid vacation every 3rd Week of May.


So socking Susie gets probation for assaulting her 2nd nanny (& the nanny's 9 year old child), as well as violating her earlier probation for a previous nanny assault. As the Philadelphia Daily News reports, She gets probation for hitting nanny:
Convicted Main Line nanny-smacker Susan Tabas Tepper can avoid further jail time if she manages to keep her hands off the household help.

Montgomery County Judge Bernard Moore has sentenced Tepper to the 42 days she's already served in jail and 15 months' probation for a May scuffle with her nanny, and for violating probation from a previous attack in May 2006.

See also, 'Time served' for Main Line socialite. I thought it fitting that I provide the end (hopefully) of the story I've covered several times before. See Swinging Susie and From One Big House to Another.

Tepper apparently is suffering from Anniversary Syndrome, which strikes her every mid-May (causing her to strike others around her), Dark Roots. I suppose that also has impacted her overall personality as well, since the heiress is a hellion, After care, Tepper gets probation, fine:
The daughter of the late hotelier and banker Daniel Tabas employs a large staff to care for her mansion and four young children. In interviews, former staff members have described her as a finicky and demanding employer who abused and fired workers with little provocation.

She especially disliked foreign-born helpers, whom she belittled and paid less than others, the ex-employees said.
The Inquirer notes:
After the hearing, Tepper pushed through the crowd of reporters as her boyfriend, Tony Fercos, star of a Las Vegas-based wild animal and illusion act, trailed behind her. Fercos is the father of Tepper's youngest child.
Tepper handles publicity for his animal show. However, she sure better keep her hands away from the lions and tigers. The PETA crowd certainly won't be as forgiving.







Pictured with her boyfriend
(via Times Herald).

The Changing Face of the GOP

A bonus New Rule from Bill Maher, courtesy of the Huffington Post, 24-Hour Republican Party People:

New Rule: Republicans changed their party before -- from the party that freed the slaves to the party that freed Scooter Libby -- and they survived. Now it's time for them to stop pretending they're still the party of Reagan and take up a new banner: The Party of Superfreaky Superfreaks.

This week, the chairman of the St. Petersburg, Florida, City Council was accused of having sex with his two adopted daughters and their nanny. And he could have been in real trouble, too, if it turned out the nanny was an illegal. But he got ahead of the story when he killed himself by sitting in the garage with the doors closed and the riding lawn mower on.

Two guesses which party he was a member of. And the first guess doesn't count.

And that's not fair. You knew he was a Republican, because even in death, he was still wasting gas.

Republicans sex scandals are getting to be like Iraqi car bombings. By the time you hear about one, there's been another. Ted Haggard, Mark Foley, Bob Allen, Vitter, Craig... It's like "Clue" only the answer is always "A Republican... in the washroom... with his cock."

The Republicans should run on that. "America: You're 230 But We'll Still Fuck You." Especially if you're a dude.

It's not really inspiring, but it's better than "Mitt Romney: He Has Hair."

I guess it's the new GOP == Gay Old Perverts (What about those "straight" Gays? They're Democrats).

And for more Bill, here's this week's (9/14/07) New Rules:


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Princess Jasmine

I wrote about Rachel Paulose, the US Attorney from Minnesota and BFF of Monica Goodling, back in April during the height of the Attorneygate scandal. See The Face of a "Loyal Bushie". After her "royal ordination" ceremony inducting her into office, she proceeded to cause great upheaval in the US Attorney's Office, so much so that 4 top staffers voluntarily demoted themselves to protest her dictatorial style.

Gonzo may be gone, but Rachel apparently has reared her ugly head. TPM is reporting that the federal Office of Special Counsel is investigating Paulose for a variety of infractions, Report: Minnesota USA Under Investigation. According to a report from the Minnesota Monitor:

The federal Office of Special Counsel is investigating allegations that Rachel Paulose, U.S. attorney for Minnesota, mishandled classified information, decided to fire the subordinate who called it to her attention, retaliated against others in the office who crossed her, and made racist remarks about one employee.
Eric Black, the Monitor reporter, expands on his coverage on his blog, Paulose under investigation by feds, detailing the allegations asserted against her:

My knowledge of the allegations comes from sources familiar with the investigation. The summary below reflects the areas into which the investigators have been inquiring:

*As U.S. attorney, Paulose received regular reports about the status of the war on terror, drawing on up-to-date information assembled by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The reports, classified “secret,” were supposed to kept locked up. For about a year, Paulose regularly left the reports loose in her office, sometimes unattended, where they could have been seen by unauthorized people. Marti spoke to her about it and, as required by regulations, filed a report with the national office that oversees U.S. attorneys.

Paulose began threatening Marti with the loss of his position as the No. 2 attorney in the office. He heard from colleagues and even from a federal judge that Paulose was bad-mouthing him, making false allegations against him and telling them that she was going to replace him.

*Paulose committed large and small acts of retaliation against others in the office whom she accused of disloyalty to her. In one instance, after changing the job assignment of one employee, Paulose allegedly said that she would make the woman so miserable that she would want to quit. In some instances, Paulose allegedly ordered those in charge of performing job evaluations to downgrade the reviews of those she considered disloyal, or turned down requests that they be allowed to perform work outside the office. The allegation is that Paulose took these actions against employees for reasons other than the quality of their work, but rather for offenses like advising her that some actions she was contemplating would exceed her legal authority.

*Paulose allegedly denigrated one employee of the office, using the terms “fat,” “black,” “lazy” and “ass.”

For more on Paulose's background (and paucity of experience), see The Curious Case of Rachel Paulose. A Commenter at TPM notes:

She is from a prominent family of an Indian Christian community called the Kerala Brethren, a Christian evangelical sect with extreme views. . . . What appears to have happened is that this combination of high intelligence, Christian fundamentalism, inexperience, and utter lack of self-doubt was effectively put to use by Rove and Gonzales. I expect that Paulose believes that by her work she is making great strides toward bringing the millenial rule of Christ here on earth.

Religion and intolerance, a winning combination every time.

One would think that Paulose, as a minority -- an Indian American who was not born in this country -- would be sensitive to racial issues. She has to be aware of our tendency to make ethnic slurs about things such as tech support in India, as well as our less than enlightened policy towards the foreign born (especially if they are brown). Because of this, you would expect her to empathize with other ethnic groups who may be subjected to discrimination. Instead, she refers to a staffer using the terms “fat,” “black,” “lazy” and “ass.” An Indian American Clarence Thomas.

And what of the investigation? Eric Black notes:

If the Office of Special Counsel finds evidence of serious wrongdoing by Paulose, they could refer the matter to the president, the only person who could remove her. The lesser specific allegations of bad personnel practices, if substantiated, could be referred to Paulose for corrective action. If Paulose remains in office until the end of Pres. Bush’s term, it would be normal practice for the next president to replace her.

In other words, nothing will happen, no matter what the findings are. The Republican regime at work.

Quote of the Day

The Republican Party now seems to work like a gang, in which the most valued qualities in members are loyalty to the gang and the leader, obedience to authority, and violence toward outsiders. The gang is constantly having to prove its dominance, and so candidates for leadership vie with one another for the most tyrannical or violent rhetoric, rhetoric which simultaneously demonizes those who don't accept the authority of the gang and the leader and removes all rules and laws for the gang and the leader. No one is exempt from the wrath of the gang. In this case, the Republican party has now separated itself fairly clearly from the general American population, and as Americans support it less, they come to seem to the Republicans to be more and more the enemy. The far away enemy is one thing, in terms of threat (think Al Qaeda, Shiites, Sunnis) but the enemy close at hand is more threatening because their enmity is seen as a "betrayal."

* * * *

What amazes me is that Republicans who are now exclaiming at what has happened to the Republican Party (and yes, I talked to my mother this morning) didn't see this coming. Everything, every value, that the Republicans have held up for my lifetime as desirable has been pointing us in this direction. As I've said before on the HuffPost, all of this is the necessary consequence of traditional Republican values, not an accidental byproduct. Or maybe I'll put it this way -- when you reject common humanity, value profits above people, practice sectarian religion, feel contempt for the choices of others, exalt wealth, conflate consumersim with citizenship, join exclusive clubs, daily practice unkindness rather than kindness, and develop theories, such as those of free market capitalism, that allow you to congratulate yourself morally for selfishness and short-sightedness, then being a gang member is in your future.

Jane Smiley, The Huffington Post, The Shock Doctrine

Monday, September 17, 2007

Black & Muddy Waters

I mentioned before that there were a number of items that I wanted to write about, but haven't had the time to get to. One of the things that I wanted to post about was Blackwater USA, after reading a post a few weeks ago by Shaun Mullen at Kiko's House, Blackwater USA: Armed & Dangerous. As he described them, Blackwater is a private group of mercenaries operating in Iraq, owned by a messianic Born Again type, Erik Prince, who is expanding operations in the US (also known as the "Homeland"). A terrifying prospect, for sure.

I was reminded of that post when I read today that the Iraqi government is trying to evict Blackwater following a shootout in Bagdad. Mullen, of course, has the story, Blackwater USA Ordered Out of Iraq:

Iraq's Interior Ministry has canceled the license of Blackwater USA, the controversial American security firm that supplies many of the American mercenaries in the war zone, after company bodyguards allegedly shot dead eight civilians and wounded 13 others in west Baghdad.

Said Brigadier General Abdul Kareem Khalaf, a spokesman for the ministry: "It has been revoked. They committed a crime. The judicial system will take action."

Blackwater has become the symbol of foreign gunmen whom Iraqis accuse of speeding through Baghdad's streets and shooting wildly at anyone seen as a threat.
However, as the Washington Post noted, Iraqi Government Revokes Blackwater License, it may not be so easy to do so:
The Iraqi government's position toward Blackwater set up a confrontation with the U.S. government over what legal authority governs the behavior of private security contractors here. Blackwater, which has an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq, plays a high-profile role because it guards U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and other diplomats. The company has faced criticism in the past for violent incidents in Iraq.

* * * *

It was not immediately clear whether Iraq or the United States holds the authority to regulate Blackwater's operations. A regulation known as Order 17 established under the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority headed by L. Paul Bremer effectively granted immunity to American private security contractors from being prosecuted in Iraqi courts.

Another CPA memorandum requires private security companies to register with the Interior Ministry, but some of the companies in Iraq operate without doing so.

See also, TPM's Iraqis Order Blackwater out of Iraq -- But Will It Leave?. It seems that this is yet another gift from the Bush Administration -- a powerful private Army, with full immunity, operating outside the control of the government. Those Republicans sure don't like checks and balances.

Former CIA official and counter-terrorism expert Larry Johnson of No Quarter says, in The Iraq Blackwater Test, that Blackwater is staying put, reasoning:
Depending on whether the Blackwater security firm stays in Iraq will inform us whether Prime Minister Maliki has any power or is just a U.S. puppet. My money is on the puppet.

* * * *

First problem. Blackwater does not have a license to operate in Iraq and does not need one. They have a U.S. State Department contract through Diplomatic Security. Instead of using Diplomatic Security officers or hiring new Security officers or relying on U.S. military personnel, the Bush Administration has contracted with firms like Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and others for people capable of conducting personnel security details. State Department is not about to curtail the contract with Blackwater, who is tightly wired into Washington. Plus, State Department simply does not have the bodies available to carry out the security mission.

Second problem. The Iraqi government has zero power to enforce a decision to oust a firm like Blackwater. For starters, Blackwater has a bigger air force and more armored vehicles then the Iraqi Army and police put together. As Spencer Ackerman reported, Blackwater’s little bird helicopter (an aircraft normally used by U.S. special operations forces) that was firing mini guns at Iraqi targets on the ground this past weekend.

Jeremy Scahill, author of a book on Blackwater, was interviewed on CNN about the private mercenary army, which he refers to as the "Shadow War" since their deaths aren't counted, their crimes aren't counted despite their aggressive tactics. See Crooks and Liars for transcript and video of interview.

I guess when they were talking about fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here, they were talking about Blackwater. All things being equal, I have to admit I'm glad they're occupied elsewhere, so they stay out of the "Homeland."

Finally, Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films has a video on Blackwater in Iraq:

Cartoon of the Day


* Patrick O'Connor, LA Daily News

The Hug



The best moment of the Emmy's. For all the LLWL* who missed it.

Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart & Steve Carell do the group hug. Just goes to show you that the best humor is the simple stuff.

LLWL=Lady Lawyers Who Lunch, a/k/a, my officemates.

( Via Give Me My Remote, where you can find other Emmy highlights)

Tags: ,

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cartoon of the Day


* Bill Day, Memphis Commercial Appeal

No Teddy Bears Need Apply

So, I was starting to write about Ted Olson as the AG nominee ("This Ted's No Teddy Bear"), when I started to see another name bandied about -- former District Circuit Judge (SDNY) Mike Mukasey. See e.g., Mukasey Cited as Leading Candidate for Attorney General.

So, is it more playing with us, so Bush gets the advantage of a big surprise? Or is it putting forward the worst possible name as a teaser (Ted Olson), so that the final pick doesn't seem so bad by comparison? Some people think Bush still wants a fight, Can This Man be the Leading Candidate?, which would support the Olson pick, but others say Mukasey's the man. Mukasey for Attorney General?.

Makasey has one advantage. He's not Ted Olson.

Right. At least he's not the darling of the right. Glenn Greenwald, who has a detailed overview of Mukasey at his Salon blog, notes:

There is no question that Judge Mukasey, a Reagan appointee who served as the Chief Judge for the Southern District of New York before retiring recently, is close to the far right on the judicial spectrum. He undoubtedly holds many legal and political views which most Democrats would find objectionable, perhaps even intolerable. But that will be true of any nominee Bush selects, and it is true of the current Acting Attorney General, Paul Clement, who will remain in place if no nominee is confirmed.
Talk Left adds, after reading up on him, the pros and cons at Michael Mukasey May Be Named AG Monday:
Preliminary assessment: He's independent-minded, extremely experienced and smart, and while more conservative on terror-related issues than I'd like, far too supportive of the Patriot Act and too close to Rudy Giuliani for comfort, he doesn't run rough-shod over defendants' rights. As compared to Ted Olson, Mukasey is an improvement.
A round up of opinion is also at The Moderate Voice, Federal Judge Mukasey Bush’s Leading Attorney General Choice.

Greenwald provides his usual informative overview of his role in the Padilla case, including several instances that he ruled against Bush, noting that at least he showed some independence from the Administration's position. Further, as Greenwald notes, "he did so at a time when most people, including those who were natural political opponents of the President, were petrified of doing the same." He concludes:

But it is true is that Mukasey's history -- unlike that of, say, Ted Olson -- has been that of an independent-minded (albeit quite conservative) judge, not a political hack at the center of partisan wars. He has -- at least at times -- displayed an impressive allegiance to the rule of law and constitutional principles over fealty to claims of unlimited presidential power.

Mukasey is very smart and independent, not part of the Bush political circle, and -- at least compared to the array of nightmarish alternatives -- it is hard to see him becoming a subservient tool of the White House. Far and away, independence from the White House is the attribute most needed for the next Attorney General -- someone who will enforce the rule of law even when it undermines the political interests, or even the legal interests, of top Bush officials.

None of this is to say that Mukasey should be confirmed as Attorney General if, as appears to be the case, he is the nominee. There is a long record of rulings that very well may constitute potent grounds for opposing him. He published a recent Op-Ed in the Wall St. Journal on the question of legal rights for terrorist suspects which was reasonable on some points though ultimately inconclusive on the central questions. And, as indicated, his ruling that Bush has the power to detain Americans as "enemy combtatants" is unquestionably disturbing. All of that may provide ample ground for opposition.

In the end, he's not Olson. As the Next Hurrah noted about Ted, in Ted Olson as AG = no Congressional subpoena power:

As we're all aware, both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees are still awaiting "administration" compliance with numerous subpoenas and other demands for documents and testimony. But standing in the way is White House counsel Fred Fielding, who insists that the officials and former officials subpoenaed by the committees are shielded from having to testify, under claims of executive privilege.

The House Judiciary Committee, having found no basis for such a claim, recommended in late July that the full House adopt resolutions finding former White House counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in contempt of Congress.

By law, however, once adopted by the House, such charges are referred for prosecution to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. Yes, the prosecution would fall to the same U.S. Attorneys whose politicization by the White House sparked this controversy in the first place. And the "administration" has been clear: they will not permit such a prosecution to go forward.

Unprecedented? Unfortunately not.

The exact same scenario played itself out in the early 1980s, when EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch refused to provide documents subpoenaed by the House, invoked executive privilege at the direction of the White House counsel, was held in contempt, and the U.S. Attorney not only refused to prosecute, but in fact sued the House of Representatives.

Who was the White House counsel who devised the plan? Fred Fielding. Yes, the same.

Fielding's assistant in running the gambit? Well, he's now Chief Justice of the United States, John Roberts. Yes, the same.

Again, the aim of the plan? To neuter the ability of Congress to enforce its oversight powers against the executive branch.

And who established this plan as administration policy by authoring a 1984 memo as head of the Office of Legal Counsel? Ted Olson. Yes, the same.

Oh, and there's one other bright light aspect to this appointment -- it's only for the remainder of Bush's term -- unlike Judges, who we're stuck with for life.

UPDATE (9/17): Looks like Mukasey's the one. Ex-Judge Is Said to Be Pick At Justice. So I guess the goal was to hint at a selection that would be totally unacceptable for the Democrats so that they'd be happy with the very conservative pick put forward.

In fact, Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft wonders why NY Sen. Schumer, who was supportive of Mukasey is now questioning his selection, Sources: Mukasey to Accept AG Position. I'm sure that's just him making noises to make the conservative feel a little better (one of the objections to Mukasey on the right was that the left didn't hate him vehemently enough), so that he will in fact be confirmed without much agita.

Cartoon of the Day


* The Radical Fringe, via Make Them Accountable

God Goes Back to School

video


It's Sunday morning. Time for religious reflection. Such as Samantha Bee's Daily Show segment: This Week in God -- Back to School Edition.

Proves that right up there with separation of Church and State should be separation of Church and School. Of course, I'm not sure I'm one to talk, having attended religious schools (Catholic) from 1st grade through law school (with a time out for high school). And, of course, my daughter attends a Quaker School, which is a religious school as well (but in a good way). Maybe I have a bit of Republican blood in me after all, I too can be a hypocrite.

(Via onegoodmove)

The Daily Show w/Jon Stewart -
View Daily Show video at Comedy Central Motherload

Saturday, September 15, 2007

No More Snow

The Snowjob is gone. The Tony Snow show closes at the White House.

Tony Snow reminds me a lot of John McCain (and I never liked McCain). The press liked him because he was funny and personable and didn't seem to take himself too seriously. He was also one of them, so that helped. I always thought he felt the job was a joke and approached it (and the White House press corp) like they were sharing an inside joke -- that is, we all know I gotta say this stuff because I have too, but we all know it's BS.

But to send him off on a good note, here are the Top Ten Tony Snow Exchanges With Helen Thomas from Extreme Mortman. You don't want to miss these gems. You can't remember Tony without Helen. And Lord knows, I love Helen Thomas. See, e.g. If Cheney Becomes President, I'll Kill Myself and No Gentle Good Night for Her.

Cartoon of the Day


"The Democratizerer"

* Matt Davies, The Journal News

He's Gone, Gone, Gone



He's gone. We're sure going to miss him. As noted on Huffington Post, Gonzales Leaves Justice Department:

Resigning Attorney General Alberto Gonzales left the scandal-scarred Justice Department on Friday, declaring himself hopeful about its mission of ferreting out crime and defending the truth.

Gonzales quit after 2 1/2 years at the department amid investigations into whether he broke the law and lied to Congress. He has denied any wrongdoing.

President Bush is expected to announce a nominee next week to replace his longtime friend and fellow Texan.

In a Friday morning speech, Gonzales said . . . .

"Over the past two and a half years, I have seen tyranny, dishonesty, corruption and depravity of types I never thought possible," Gonzales said in prepared remarks at a Hispanic Heritage Month ceremony at Bolling Air Force Base. "I've seen things I didn't know man was capable of.

"But I will tell you here and now that these things still leave me hopeful," he said. "Because every time I see a glimmer of the evil man can do, I see the defenders of liberty, truth and justice who stand ready to fight it."

Yes, Alberto, it's true. We have all seen tyranny, dishonesty, corruption and depravity of types we never thought possible -- and we hold you responsible. But we too are hopeful that the fight for liberty, truth and justice will prevail. After all, we fought and were finally able to get rid of you.

(Video from Talking Points Memo, Unforgettable, Special Alberto Gonzales Top 10)

And as a final memory of Gonzales, here's SNL's Weekend Update: Really with Seth and Amy: Alberto Gonzales.

video

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Great Fabricator

Philly Daily News reporter and blogger Will Bunch has been all over the story of Alexis Debat, the ABC News terrorist consultant and Nixon Center employee, who fabricated a number of high profile interviews in the French magazine Politique Internationale. He notes in The disgraced ABC consultant and the push for war in Iran:

There's a huge new media scandal breaking this morning, and the headline so far -- that a much-used consultant to ABC News published a phony interview with Barak Obama -- may well be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The news about now ex-ABC consultant Alexis Debat (left) is just dribbling out, but I'm surprised people haven't been connecting the dots. This post will seek to connect a couple of them.

Simply put, Debat -- a former French defense official who now works at the (no, you can't make these things up) Nixon Center -- has also been a leading source in pounding the drumbeat for war in Iran, and directly linked to some bizarre stories -- reported on ABC's widely watched news shows, and nowhere else -- that either ratcheted up fears of terrorism or that could have stoked new tensions between Washington and Tehran.

It has been discovered that this "foreign affairs expert" has faked interviews with a number of other prominent individuals. According to NYTimes blog The Lede, World Leaders Say Interviews Were Faked:

Now, a slew of other leaders — former President Bill Clinton; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; the former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan; Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York; Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft; and former Secretary-General Kofi Annan of the United Nations — also told ABC News that Mr. Debat never talked to them for interviews published in the same French publication, Politique Internationale.

“This guy is just sick,” Patrick Wajsman, the editor of Politique Internationale, told ABC News.

Mr. Debat submitted the interviews between working at the conservative Nixon Center and ABC News, where he was a consultant focusing on the terrorism beat after Sept. 11, 2001. Previously, he served as a defense official in the French government.

* * * *

Now there are more concerns being raised about his work for ABC News, which cut its ties with him in June for falsely claiming a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne. When his reliability came into question, ABC News said, it performed a review of his work and found no problems.

Will Bunch, who covers the media for the Philadelphia Inquirer, was not satisfied. Citing Mr. Debat’s role at ABC News as “a leading source in pounding the drumbeat for war in Iran” who is “directly linked to some bizarre stories,” Mr. Bunch asks whether his motivation is fame or a political agenda.

As noted by The Lede, Bunch (who's own credibility is now open to question since he's misidentified as being with the Inky) notes that Debat has been in the forefront of the effort to stir up anti-Iran sentiments:

Most recently, since ending his role with ABC, Debat helped raise a big international stir by pounding the drums for a U.S. attack on Iran.

The report came in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times of London, right after rumors swept through Washington that aides to Vice President Dick Cheney were planning to use friendly news outlets -- including several others owned by Murdoch -- to whip up popular opinion for attacking Iran.

This story appeared in Murdoch's Times on Sept. 2, 2007:

THE Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert.

Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for “pinprick strikes” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. “They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military,” he said.

Debat was speaking at a meeting organised by The National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal. He told The Sunday Times that the US military had concluded: “Whether you go for pinprick strikes or all-out military action, the reaction from the Iranians will be the same.” It was, he added, a “very legitimate strategic calculus”.

Needless to say, the new information about Debat calls this story into question -- big-time, as Cheney himself might say. But what is really going on? Is Debat pulling sensational stories from thin air, as was the case with Obama, to make a name for himself? Or in his role at the Nixon Center -- which still has close ties to Henry Kissinger and others in the conservatve foreign policy establishment like former Secretary of State James Baker, who spoke there recently-- is he serving a higher agenda of spin?

* * * *

As noted at the top, there are two radically different ways to look at this scandal. Either Debat is a lone wolf, a deluded self-aggrandizer whose main agenda is promoting himself. Or he is acting in his role at the Nixon Center as a conduit, spreading information and occasional disinformation at the behest of others.

Either way, this is unarguably yet another huge black eye for the American media. But if the latter is true, it could also raise major questions about American foreign policy, and about the future of war and peace in the Persian Gulf.
Obviously, the true impact of these revelations is just beginning to be known. He has now admitted that his other interviews also never occurred. See, Ex-ABC Adviser Faces New Allegations. Yet, as the Washington Post notes, it is claims about Iran that raise more serious concerns:
Debat was prominently quoted last week by London's Sunday Times as saying the Pentagon had drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran.
Laura Rozen has put together a piece at Mother Jones on the scope of the story, Subject to Debat: What did ABC Know and When Did It Know It?:
Though Debat, often described in the American media as “a former French defense official,” insisted he would clear his name and sue Riché and his online magazine Rue89 for slander, the alleged fabricated interviews soon became a problem not just for Debat but for ABC. Since 2002, the network has employed Debat as a counterterrorism consultant and sometimes reporter, sending him to far-flung locations to report on Al Qaeda, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. (For the past year and a half, Debat has also served as the director of the terrorism and national security program at the Nixon Center; he resigned "for personal reasons" this week.)

* * * *

Following Riché's report, ABC publicly announced that it had demanded Debat’s resignation in June, after learning from French government sources that he did not have the doctorate he’d claimed. ABC said it had investigated his reports then, and was undertaking a more extensive investigation upon learning of the fabricated interviews at Politique Internationale, but that to date, it was confident that all of Debat’s reports for ABC had been vetted and multiply sourced and were standing up to scrutiny.

Interviews with journalists, producers, think tank associates, executives, and former government officials, indicate that there were warning signs about Debat for years—even within the network itself. Two journalists familiar with Debat’s work point to ABC chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross not as the victim of Debat’s alleged deceptions, but as an enabler, who has promoted sensational stories—including some that Debat brought the network—at the expense at times of rigorous journalism standards. (Ross did not return Mother Jones’ phone call by press time, although an ABC executive has been in touch by phone and email.) They also say that they do not believe ABC has properly investigated Debat’s reporting at all.

* * * *

Network officials strongly deny that ABC has tried to sweep the Debat matter under the rug, and say they are taking the matter of investigating his stories very seriously. “We acted expeditiously to sever ties with Debat when we could not establish his credentials and we did immediately investigate his work,” ABC senior vice president Jeffrey W. Schneider emailed me.

In fact, the French news service AFP reported as far back as 2002 that according to the French government, Debat had never been a defense ministry official. “Alexis Debat, presented by the American [TV] channel ABC as ‘a former official at the French Defence Ministry’ in the context of the case of [Zacarias] Moussaoui … ‘has never belonged’ to this
ministry,” the AFP reported September 6, 2002. According to the annotated Debat CV, he had at one time had a low-rank desk job at the Ministry for less than a year.

And overnight Friday, Riché had a new scoop: a whistleblower inside ABC had alerted the network to its Debat problem, first in complaints to editors, and later, with a memo. “The ABC news reporter tried to alert the management of her network that Alexis Debat was not reliable,” Riché reported. “In an email she wrote last May to a researcher in a Washington think tank, she explained she had been ‘quietly concerned’ about Debat's work for ABC ‘for some time.’"

Stay tuned.

For more on the story, see Rozen's blog, War and Piece.

The importance of this story for me is that it not only raise issues of journalist integrity, but it demonstrates how much power the media has over our view of events. People rely on the press to tell us what is happening in our world, to filter out fact from fiction. This is a topic I've covered many times before, see, e.g., Put down the steno pad and Bush Lied & People Died. This, of course, is needed even more when the Spinmeisters are in control of government, as is the case with the Bushies. Yet all to often, we see have seen the press help promote the tall tale -- to become actively involved in the spin, rather than expose it, as may have occurred here.