Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Shall Survive

Arlen Specter is one of the worst, most soul-less, most belief-free individuals in politics. The moment most vividly illustrating what Specter is: prior to the vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, he went to the floor of the Senate and said what the bill "seeks to do is set back basic rights by some 900 years" and is "patently unconstitutional on its face." He then proceeded to vote YES on the bill's passage.
This is the essential essence of Arlen. Arlen Specter, the newest member of the Democratic Party in the Senate. Sen. Arlen Specter To Switch Parties; Could Give Democrats Filibuster-Proof Congressional Majority.

As Glenn Greenwald (quoted above) says of Specter, What Specter's switch says about him, the Democrats and our political spectrum:
The idea that Specter is a "liberal" Republican or even a "moderate" reflects how far to the Right both the GOP and our overall political spectrum has shifted.

Consider Specter’s most significant votes over the last eight years, ones cast in favor of such definitive right-wing measures as: the war on Iraq, the Military Commissions Act, Patriot Act renewal, confirmation of virtually every controversial Bush appointee, retroactive telecom immunity, warrantless eavesdropping expansions, and Bush tax cuts (several times). Time and again during the Bush era, Specter stood with Republicans on the most controversial and consequential issues.

And let's not forget that Arlen Specter is the man who started the whole US Attorney mess by changing the statutory approval process, since was responsible for the change in the law that permitted the replacement of the US Attorneys without Senate confirmation. So, he's hardly Joseph of the Amazing Dreamcoat for Democrats.

When my husband called to tell me about Specter's switch, I told him that I may have been one of the first to predict it. In the beginning of January, during the contentious Holder confirmation hearings, I said, in Puff the Magic Dragon:

Of course, Specter will perform his dragon routine, creating a bunch of fake noise about Holder to please the conservatives, then end up doing nothing. If he follows his usual routine, he'll even end up voting to confirm him, when all is said & done [which he in fact did do].

Specter has long played the role of conservative toady in disguise as a moderate. I'm sure he began his career (long, long ago) as a moderate (fiscally conservative, social issues moderate), which played well with the Southeastern Pennsylvania electorate. With the rise of Reagan, then Bush, the GOP required fealty to its brand of conservative orthodoxy, and Specter complied. The result has been a mixed bag for him. He has alienated his true constituency, the moderate Republicans (and even some Democrats) who live in SE Pennsylvania, yet he is viewed with skepticism by the ultra conservatives, who don't believe for a minute that he's a true believer. And for them, merely following the party line is insufficient. You must be a true convert. So, as much as he scrapes and bows for the, Specter will always be another McCain to them -- someone you just can't trust.

He had a tough primary race during his last re-election campaign and this one may prove even harder.

This was shortly after Chris Matthews finally decided not to enter the race to challenge Arlen. After noting the number of potential Democrats who were voicing interest in the race, I then added:

Gee, maybe Specter will join that list, switching back to the Democratic Party, from whence he came. Now, that sure would make things interesting.

Of course, many others considered that option more recently, as it became increasingly clear that Specter would have a seemingly insurmountable primary contest, especially after the Pat Toomey jumped into the race against him on the GOP side. Dick Polman's piece on why Specter should switch teams in March was delightfully on target, in Arlen Specter's route to survival.

So, besides providing lots of fodder for the media (and bloggers), what does it all mean?

As Nate Silver of 538 put it, Specter's Switch More Insult Than Injury to GOP:
This strikes me as being bad news for the Republican Party more than it is good news for the Democrats.
Closer to home, Booman Tribune describes the Specter move, Thoughts on Specter:
We Democrats here in Pennsylvania know Arlen Specter's record better than anyone and you'll be hearing endless reiterations of his many sins over the next two years. I don't need to do that now. Suffice to say that most progressives in this state find Specter to be enormously frustrating. We do not dispute that he is what passes these days for a moderate Republican. We know that he has a good record on labor issues and that he is officially pro-choice. I know high level people in the teacher's unions that intended to re-register as Republicans to vote for him in the primary and then re-register as Democrats to vote against him in the general. Specter is not hated or despised by most people, but he isn't liked or respected either.

We were hoping to beat him in the 2010 election, not be asked to support him. I suspect most activists and progressives will simply refuse to work for his reelection and we'll probably get organized in the Netroots to do the best job we can financing an alternative in the primary."
On the other hand, Specter has been pretty popular in this state and I know many Democrats (and former Republicans) who are pretty happy about the change. As Steven Reynolds of All Spin Zone said, Snarlin’ Arlen Crossing From the Dark Side:
I understand Mr. Specter has promised to give back political contributions from supporters if they do not agree with his decision. Of the people I know who have given him money, I know of many who will be cheering this move. Yes, even some in my own household will be cheering.
In the end, I think he'll end up going back to being moderate Arlen, freed from the necessity of having to please the guns & Christ crowd. In that vein, I fully expect that, despite his protestations to the contrary, that he'll vote for the Employees Free Choice (Card Check), or at least vote for cloture. Please. This is Arlen Specter we are talking about. As I've noted many times before, he hasn't been called Chameleon, The Manchurian Senator, A Gutless Republican Worm and Wafflin' Arlen for nothing.

Quoting Booman Tribune's Quote of the Day:
Jonathan Chait:

"When a politician switches parties, it’s customary for the party he’s abandoned to denounce him as an unprincipled hack, and the party he’s joined to praise him as a brave convert who’s genuinely seen the light. But I think it’s pretty clear that Specter is an unprincipled hack."

But now he is our unprincipled hack.

And for the last word on this (at least for now), is Chris Matthews, who delivered a devastating analysis on Countdown:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Going Once, Going Twice

The obituaries for newspapers have come fast & furiously of late -- some due to the actual closure of papers, others from essays predicting the end of newspapers generally. Based upon the latest circulation figures, the prophesied demise of newsprint is certainly supported. According to E&P, New FAS-FAX Shows (More) Steep Circulation Losses:

The Audit Bureau of Circulations released this morning the spring figures for the six months ending March 31, 2009, showing that the largest metros continue to shed daily and Sunday circulation -- now at a record rate.

According to ABC, for 395 newspapers reporting this spring, daily circulation fell 7% to 34,439,713 copies, compared with the same March period in 2008. On Sunday, for 557 newspapers, circulation was down 5.3% to 42,082,707. These averages do not include 84 newspapers with circulations below 50,000 due to a change in publishing frequency.
The NYTimes and Washington Post were the only papers spared the deep decline:
Daily circulation at The New York Times dropped 3.5% to 1,039,031. The Times' Sunday circ was down 1.7% to 1,451,233.

The Washington Post lost 1.6% of its daily circ to 665,383 and 2.3% to 868,965.
Of course, there is no end to reasons why, with the rise of the internet proffered as the main culprit. Yet that's just an easy excuse to avoid looking at the real reason for the failure of newspapers, which is the decline in providing real news and reportage that the public finds useful. As Will Bunch of Attytood said in another context, which applies here as well:

For the most part, we've failed so far. It was more than a little disheartening to learn of the crippling fear inside the newsroom of the New York Times, where editors and reporters were so afraid of offending, so afraid of anyone thinking that the newspaper was taking a side, that the news staffers refused to label globally outlawed practices such as waterboarding as "torture."

* * * *

Almost every flaw of our craft has been on display in the last week or two -- the pleading for a middle-of-the-road answer to a problem where there is no middle ground, the phony "he said, she said" journalism that gives a 50 percent voice to the advocates of American-bred torture, the use of unnecessary anonymous quotes to defend the indefensible, the need for an elite inside-the-Beltway clique to circle the wagons, to insist that aggressive prosecution is only for the crimes that "regular people" commit.

In other words, perhaps journalists should have been exposing torture rather than figuring out what to call it?

See also, Are newspapers to blame for their own demise?.

And then there are the statistics for Philly's own local paper, the Inky:
The Philadelphia Inquirer lost 13.7% of its daily circulation to 288,298. Sunday was hit just as hard, down 12% to 550,400. Daily circulation at its sister publication the Daily News fell 7.6% to 99,103.
The struggles of the Inquirer (and Daily News) are longstanding, with the paper currently in bankruptcy. It was just about 2 years ago that the papers were bought by a group led by adman extraordinaire Brian Tierney. See
The Good News and Bad News. Since then, he has managed to make the paper a shadow of its former self. As I noted not long ago:

I hardly read the print version anymore (although we still get it delivered because my husband likes to read an actual newspaper). Except for one or two articles on the front page, the entire front section of the paper consists of reprints of AP, NYTimes and Washington Post articles. I can read those at the original source, so why bother reading them on a delayed basis in the paper? Even the opinion section mostly carries reprints of op ed pieces from elsewhere, along with the likes of Rick Santorum -- just the sort of outlandish conservative that a liberal town like Philly wants, so I skip over that too. The only thing worth reading is the Local section, to see what is happening in the region. Sometimes, I let the paper pile up over a few days and then just skim through to see what, if anything, is worth reading. This from a person who used to read 5 papers daily (including the Inky), from cover to cover! Overall, with cutbacks in staff and content, the old Philly paper ain't what she used to be.

He has implemented such brilliant moves as imitating the Metro, a free local paper, by adding an "express section" of the paper, summarizing what's covered in the paper elsewhere. The Reader's News Digest. I suppose it may also have been needed to fill up the pages with the missing news from reporters who had been laid off.

Another good move by Tierney was the decision to hold posting news and article on-line until the paper version was printed and delivered -- a great way to stay relevant in a digital world. I guess Tierney adopted the "if you can't fight it, resist it" theory of journalism. However, as co-founder of the Huffington Post, Ken Lerer observed at a recent lecture, Tough Love with Ken Lerer:

Kenneth Lerer to newspapers: You blew it.

The media executive and Huffington Post co-founder, in a lecture he delivered last night to a packed audience at Columbia’s J-School, pulled few punches when it came to newspapers’ culpability for the crisis in which they now find themselves. In the years when the expansion of the Web made it clear that news had an online future—the years when they should have adapted to that future, Lerer said—papers “barricaded themselves in an echo chamber.” Losing, in the process, not only their perspective on the future of news, but also their claim on it.

And then there was the Inky's piece de la resistance, the addition of Rick Santorum to the op-ed page. A brilliant move by Tierney, as I noted before:

I wonder if Inky owner/publisher Brian Tierney is channeling that other great rightwing media mogul, Richard Mellon Scaife, in trying to follow his vision of a publishing empire -- by creating a vast right wing conspiracy like Mellon Scaife. For a glimpse at Tierney, see Inquire No More. It hardly needs to be said that Philly is heavily democratic, but even the Philly 'burbs are trending Democrat these days and most of the remaining Republicans are hardly of the extremist ilk of Santorum. Considering the "popularity" of Santorum in this area (and his overwhelming loss in his last Senate race is further proof of that), it doesn't make sense to alienate so many of your readers at a time that you are trying to increase readership. And Santorum most certainly will -- it's his persona.

In fact, I'm sure for all his efforts on behalf of the paper, Tierney deserves yet another bonus. After all, where would the paper be without him?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We Remain Unpersuaded

Via Philadelphia Freedom Blog, I discovered that the federal appeals court in Atlanta had denied the appeal of Troy Davis. I've written about the case several times before. Unfortunately, the news is not surprising. Even when the court granted the appeal, I noted in Hold On, that "the remaining hurdles that Troy Davis still faces are still overwhelming. Although there is much evidence that brings his conviction into question, even getting approval to hold a hearing where such testimony would be considered is difficult. The legal standard that must be met before a hearing would be permitted is exceedingly stringent."

On the latest decision, the Atlanta Constitution reports, Georgia Death Row Inmate Loses 11th Circuit Appeal:

In a 2-1 opinion, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Davis could not establish by clear and convincing evidence that a jury would not have found him guilty.

Davis’ innocence claims have attracted international attention. They rely largely on the recantations of key prosecution witnesses who testified at trial and on statements by others who say another man told them he was the actual killer.

* * * *

On Thursday, the two-judge majority noted that state courts and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles had exhaustively reviewed Davis’ claims and rejected them.

Judges Joel Dubina and Stanley Marcus said they agreed with those conclusions. “Davis has not presented us with a showing of innocence so compelling that we would be obligated to act today,” they wrote.

The judges said they view the recantations with skepticism and, after reviewing Davis’ claims, “remain unpersuaded.”

Although the article suggests that Davis' claims of innocence were reviewed in detail and found to be insufficient, the reality is that his appeal merely focused on granting him the right to assert his claims before a federal court. As explained by the ACLU's blog, Troy Davis Suffers Another Blow:
Late last week, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Troy Davis’s petition for a hearing to prove his innocence. Although seven of the nine non-police witnesses against him have recanted or contradicted their trial testimony, that evidence will not be heard unless the United States Supreme Court decides differently. Troy Davis still has a 30-day stay of execution to file a petition with the Supreme Court.

The 11th Circuit refused to hear Davis’ claims of innocence by a 2-1 vote. The decision was largely based on the onerous procedural obstacles that a death row inmate must overcome before a federal court will consider the merits of his or her constitutional claims – in Troy’s case, his claim that the execution of an innocent person violates the cruel or unusual punishment clause of the U.S. Constitution. (Emphasis added).
This is echoed in the dissenting opinion of the Court, by Judge Rosemary Barkett Georgia Death Row Inmate Loses 11th Circuit Appeal:
The third judge on the panel, Judge Rosemary Barkett, dissented. She said executing an innocent person violates the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment and the 14th Amendment's guarantee of due process of law.

Stephen B. Bright, president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights, echoed Barkett's dissent in an e-mail.

'The judges have completely lost sight of justice,' said Bright. 'They are lost in a maze of procedural rules that obscure the truth instead of revealing it.'
I guess it's not hard to "remain unpersuaded" when you're not really reviewing the full record on guilt or innocence. Justice is definitely missing in this case.

And, let's not forget what is at issue here. As Mary Shaw of Philadelphia Freedom says:
This is despite the fact that the evidence could show that Davis is innocent.

Does Georgia really want to risk executing an innocent man?

And what's to lose by granting him a new hearing? Doesn't Georgia want to be absolutely certain that they are punishing the right guy?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Stop, Look, Listen

Last Sunday, someone other than the Easter Bunny visited one of our neighbors. That's right, there was no Easter Egg Hunt for the Boyd family.

Instead there was another visit from a reckless driver who landed in their yard after running a red light, causing another accident on Lincoln Drive. I was sitting in our sunroom on Easter Sunday afternoon when I heard the loud crash. Based upon the noise & the sirens that followed, I knew it had to be pretty bad. My daughter, PhillyAngel, & I took a walk down the block to see what had happened this time.

The same neighbors who had a car land in their sunroom last year, see Lift-off on Lincoln Drive, were the unlucky recipients of another accident on their property. As the Inky reported, Renewed effort to slow Lincoln Dr. speeders, one of the homeowners, Sharon Boyd, was in her yard when an accident happened as she watched:

Boyd saw a blue car traveling east on Hortter Street sail through the red light and slam into a tan sedan heading north on Lincoln Drive.

She felt Peaches' heart quicken, and her own, as the two cars spun toward the house.

Boyd shouted for her husband, Larry, and her son Kevin to run.

The blue car knocked over a fire hydrant and took out some irises and shrubs on the side of the house. The tan one ripped the curb, then slammed into a utility pole in front of the house.

Yet again, there was a scene of screaming and crying passengers, swirling police lights, ambulances, and tow trucks, and broken glass on Lincoln Drive. In just the last two weeks, there have been six crashes on the drive - all in the residential area north of Johnson Street, with no fatalities.

Another neighbor, Policie Commissioner Ramsey, also reacted to the Easter hop:

Since Ramsey became commissioner last year, he has grumbled publicly about speeders on Lincoln Drive, which winds through Fairmount Park into the city's northwest neighborhoods.

After learning about the latest accident outside the Boyds' home, Ramsey said: "People just drive too doggone fast. Even when surfaces are wet they do not slow down. They slide into your lawn, your porch, anything because they lose control of their car."

To slow down drivers entering Lincoln Drive from Kelly Drive, a traffic-unit patrol car has been stationed for more than a year at the side of the road, a police spokesman said.

Unfortunately, Lincoln Drive is out of control. Even though we live nearby, I avoid it if at all possible. There are an average of 3 accidents a week. As the Inky noted, there were 6 accidents in the last 2 weeks, all in the 1 mile residential stretch past Johnson Street. Those who live along the Drive, including Ramsey, have had to take the initiative to protect their homes:

Several residents along the drive have posted "Keep Kids Alive Drive 25" signs on their lawns and placed large boulders around their properties to thwart wayward cars.

Ramsey said that about five months ago a car crashed into one of his boulders. "Again, somebody driving way too fast. Ruined their car . . . their undercarriage, anyway."

Part of the problem is that it is unclear who is responsible for the problem. A neighborhood group was formed to address the issue, once they figure out who to talk to:

"It's not clear who's supposed to address it: the city or the state," [Committee member Kittura] Dior said, noting that the drive is a state highway. "Everyone seemed to have an interest, but it wasn't a focused interest."

In fact, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation owns and does major reconstruction of the drive, mayoral spokesman Luke Butler said. The Streets Department is responsible for regular maintenance, and Fairmount Park crews plow part of the road.

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) said he believed Lincoln Drive was a city highway but said: "In either instance . . . we're going to work with the community to make sure they get the resources they need to get it done. The city has tried a number of things over the years as far as staging entry on the drive, but further up is still a problem."

OK, this much is true, that the road is a big problem. Now what? Any chance we could maybe fix it??

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer

Home Alone

My husband flew down to Miami Thursday morning to load up & drive back all of the stuff that's in our daughter's dorm room. Lucky for us, we have family in the South Florida area, so we were able to store most of the big items (refridge, microwave, TV, etc) in my parents garage. Her first year college experience had its tribulations, but the semester is coming to an end.

We gave her a car for Christmas (my brother's old Mustang GT), so my husband is enjoying the drive home in the "muscle car." After spending the night at my brother's house in Delray, he drove to Atlanta on Friday to visit his brother. Then it's on the road again, Philly bound. He's reliving his youth, recalling the time he drove to Florida & back during Spring Break with one of his best buddies in his corvette.

This also means I have a few days of hanging out, with no responsibilities (except the job & the pets, of course). Also on the agenda was a girls' night out, and cruising around on a nice sunny day with the top down, doing some browsing at my favorite consignment shops & antique jewelry stores.

When I talked to my husband on his drive to Atlanta on Friday, he mentioned that he couldn't believe the array of Confederate flags dotting the landscape. I thought perhaps that he had passed the world's largest Confederate Flag near Tampa that was raised last summer.

And, the timing is apparently perfect to be immersed in the Rebel flag, since April has been deemed as Confederacy month by the powers that be, including Georgia's governor, Sonny Perdue, as I discovered from Philly's own field negro.

Maybe there was a sign up to greet him as he entered Georgia, declaring Happy Confederacy History and Heritage Month.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

Tim Egan, Deep Cover

Quote of the Day

One of the constantly bewildering aspects of living on planet Earth is the assumption that most human beings seem to make that faith (usually, but not necessarily, the religious variety) is a virtue. This bizarre attitude — just to add insult to injury — often comes coupled with the equally strange idea that somehow too much reason is bad for you. Why?
From Rationally Speaking.

(Via onegoodmove)

Don't Need No Rights

Last year, I noted that Justice Thomas had gone for 2 years & 144 cases without uttering a word during oral argument on the Court. Showing that his mind is still as closed as his mouth, he has yet to utter a word from the bench since February 22,2006.

However, he opened up not too long ago. Justice Thomas spoke with a number of high school students at a "Bill of Rights" Institute dinner, as the NYTimes notes, Reticent Justice Opens Up to a Group of Students:

The event, on March 31, was devoted to the Bill of Rights, but Justice Thomas did not embrace the document, and he proposed a couple of alternatives.

“Today there is much focus on our rights,” Justice Thomas said. “Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights.”

“I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances,” he said. “Shouldn’t there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?”

He gave examples: “It seems that many have come to think that each of us is owed prosperity and a certain standard of living. They’re owed air-conditioning, cars, telephones, televisions.”

Those are luxuries, Justice Thomas said.
Perhaps keeping quiet was a good idea.

In response to Adam Serwer's Twitter notation of Thomas' remark about too many rights ruining American, I tweeted in reply: "Thankfully, we have the Supreme Court to rid us of those excess rights."

Not only does Thomas have a dim view of the rights enumerated by the Bill of Rights, he also has a dark view of life as well. The Times piece included his remarks about his job on the court:
“I tend to be morose sometimes,” the justice said. “I am rounding the last turn for my 18th term on the court,” he added, but his work — “this endeavor,” he called it, “or, for some, an ordeal” — has not gotten easier. “That’s one thing about this job,” he said. “You get a little tired.”
As Mother Jones said, it almost makes you feel sorry for the guy, except for the fact that he's making decisions on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas Is One Seriously Troubled Dude:
The article makes clear, simply by quoting the famously taciturn Thomas, that he believes he is dumber than all the other justices and a good number of law professors, and retreats into isolation ('I tend to be morose sometimes') to nurse his wounds and brood. What an awful purgatory of an existence: to know you are a fraud, to know that everyone else knows you are a fraud, and yet to be locked into your job more or less for life. It's enough to ruin a person. And it appears it has.
Last month, Justice Ginsburg hinted that there could be a Supreme Court Opening "Soon". Court watchers speculated that Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens and David Souter were the most likely to retire. However, based upon his distaste for his position on the court, maybe it's Thomas.

Wouldn't that be wonderful.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Time

(Via Dependable Renegade)

Oh Happy Day

I've certainly had my issues with Arlen Specter, Arlen, We Really Knew Ye, the Senator from Pennsylvania who, despite his label as a moderate, has spent most of the past many years wiggling around trying to please the conservative contingent in his party. It's been to no avail, of course, because the zealots require total fealty on all matters and waffling is not permitted. Moderate Republicans and Democrats have generally given Arlen a pass, figuring he's really a closet moderate and his turns to the right are just for show as election time approaches.

After doing his own political shuffle, see Ta-Ta Toomey, conservative former Lehigh Valley Congressman Pat Toomey has decided to challenger Specter once again. He came very close to defeating Specter last time and many of the moderates have fled the GOP, leaving Toomey's base in firm control.

As the Inky notes, Toomey announces GOP senate bid:

Conservative Pat Toomey, a former Lehigh Valley congressman, this morning announced he is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in the 2010 election.

In a videotaped message on his new campaign website (, Toomey says the nation is at a "crossroads" between a greatly expanding federal government and the direction of more economic freedom.

The move sets up a much-anticipated rematch with moderate Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) who earned a fifth term in 2004 after defeating a challenge from Toomey by about 17,000 votes out of more than 1 million cast. Their race will feature a key debate among Republicans: Did their party lose power because it stopped appealing to moderates, or because it was not true to conservative principles?
This may be the only way Arlen goes. As I said before, Puff the Magic Dragon:

Specter has long played the role of conservative toady in disguise as a moderate. I'm sure he began his career (long, long ago) as a moderate (fiscally conservative, social issues moderate), which played well with the Southeastern Pennsylvania electorate. With the rise of Reagan, then Bush, the GOP required fealty to its brand of conservative orthodoxy, and Specter complied. The result has been a mixed bag for him. He has alienated his true constituency, the moderate Republicans (and even some Democrats) who live in SE Pennsylvania, yet he is viewed with skepticism by the ultra conservatives, who don't believe for a minute that he's a true believer. And for them, merely following the party line is insufficient. You must be a true convert. So, as much as he scrapes and bows for the, Specter will always be another McCain to them -- someone you just can't trust.

He had a tough primary race during his last re-election campaign and this one may prove even harder.

With the core of the GOP the way it is, there's a good chance Toomey will prevail in the primary. The good news is that Toomey will have a tough time in the general election, since the moderate wing of the state will not want another Rick Santorum.

In fact, I even wondered whether Arlen would revert back to the Democratic Party, which would probably be the only way he could win. In fact, he's been approached by Ed Rendell & others about doing just that, but he has apparently elected not to.

It wouldn't surprise me if the GOP was like one of those secret societies that you're not permitted to leave once you join. Maybe he's afraid that the Republicans will take out a contract on him if he switches his party.

Monday, April 13, 2009

La La Means It All

In memory of Randy Cain of The Delfonics, who died last week.

"La La Means I Love You."

This was the music that introduced me to life.

From Sea to Holy See

Luckily, the Pope didn't demand that the annual White House Easter Egg Roll be canceled because President Obama invited gay families to attend.

On the other hand, it appears that the pontiff may be getting involved in the appointment process of Ambassador to the Vatican. The Telegraph first reported the story, Vatican blocks Caroline Kennedy appointment as US ambassador:

Vatican sources told Il Giornale that their support for abortion disqualified Ms Kennedy and other Roman Catholics President Barack Obama had been seeking to appoint.

Mr Obama was reportedly seeking to reward John F Kennedy's daughter, who publicly gave her support to his election bid. She had been poised to replace Hillary Clinton as New York senator, but dropped out amid criticism that she lacked enough experience for the job.

The Italian paper said that the Vatican strongly disapproved of Mr Obama's support for abortion and stem cell research. The impasse over the ambassadorial appointment threatens to cloud his meeting with the Pope during a G8 summit in Itay in July.
Of course, this little tidbit has brought tears of joy to the zealot wing of the GOP. For example, the conservative Washington ("Moonie") Times gleefully reports on the controversy, Vatican frowns on envoy prospects:
The Obama administration is having difficulty finding an ambassador to the Vatican, which has informally vetoed the appointment of Caroline Kennedy and other Roman Catholics who have supported President Obama, an Italian newspaper and Vatican specialists said Thursday.

'A trial of strength between Barack Obama and the U.S. church that involves the Holy See is under way,' the conservative Milan newspaper Il Giornale said Thursday in a report by Vatican correspondent Andrea Tornielli.

'The tenant of the White House is very criticized indeed for his choices in favor of abortion and use of stem [cell] embryos, while the impasse for the designation of the new U.S. ambassador in the Vatican continues,' Mr. Tornielli wrote. 'At least three names — but there are some that say more — of candidates … have been 'burned' even before the proposal of nomination could be made formally, because they were unwelcome to the church.'

The newspaper said those informally rejected include Ms. Kennedy and Douglas Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University and former head of the Office of Legal Counsel for Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Both candidates gave prominent endorsements to Mr. Obama during the presidential campaign.
I was just about ready to diss the pontiff when I read Amy Sullivan of Time's Swampland, who says it's not so. Responding to similar reports by Newmax, she notes, Obama’s Vatican Ambassador Rejected? No.:

You'll be shocked to learn this is not true. But oh how perfect it must have sounded to the Newsmax crew when they put out the story. Everyone knows Democrats aren't pro-life. And now Obama can't even get a Vatican ambassador approved--because there's not a single pro-life Catholic in the Democratic Party!

Unfortunately for them, John Thavis at Catholic News Service actually called over to the Vatican to ask about the rumors. Here's what he found:

Vatican sources said not only was the report inaccurate, but that its premise was faulty. The Vatican has not been in the habit of vetting the personal beliefs or ideas of candidates before accepting them as ambassadors, they said.

There have been occasions in the last two years when the Vatican has objected to ambassadorial candidates -- from Argentina, in the case of a divorced Catholic with a live-in partner, and from France, where the candidate was an openly gay Catholic in a union with another man.

"For Catholic ambassadors, there is the question of their matrimonial situation. But outside of that, I don't think there are other criteria," said one Vatican source.

Despite this denial, the media still claims that the Vatican has nixed the appointment. Perhaps this is all just based upon the ruminations of Raymond Flynn, himself a former Ambassador & Boston mayor, who is a strident pro-lifer. As the Boston Herald reports, Raymond Flynn says Caroline Kennedy no good for Vatican post:
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Raymond L. Flynn is giving a thumbs down to Caroline Kennedy as a potential pick for his former diplomatic post, saying the pro-choice values of JFK’s daughter would make the nod “a mistake.”

“It’s imperative, it’s essential that the person who represents us to the Holy See be a person who has a pro-life values. I hope the president doesn’t make that mistake,” Flynn told the Herald yesterday. “She said she was pro-choice. I don’t assume she’s going to change that, which is problematic.”

While I certainly wouldn't be surprised if the Vatican did try to interfere with the selection of Kennedy, I can't believe that it would have also black-balled Doug Kmiec, as was reported by the Moonie Times. Kmiec may have supported Obama, but he is otherwise a conservative Republican who is pro-life. There is no way the Pope would have objected to Kmiec.

However, if this is truly coming from the Vatican, then I agree with Steven Reynolds of All Spin Zone, who says that the Vatican shouldn't get involved in how our government operates, since we're still (mostly) a nation that doesn't have a state religion. See Vatican Running US Foreign Policy?.

If it is true, then I say we do as Michael Stickings of The Reaction suggests, Vatican rejects Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador:

So the Vatican won't accept Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador -- or anyone else who is pro-choice (and pro-stem-cell research)?

Tough, I say.

It won't happen -- not least because there are so many Catholic voters at home to placate -- but Obama ought simply to refuse to appoint an ambassador to the so-called Holy See. Why give in? Why appoint a pro-choicer just because that's what the Vatican wants? Why implicitly approve of the Roman Catholic Church's absolutist authoritarian positions on such issues -- that is, its moral extremism -- by appointing someone who approves of the Church's positions and of whom the Church approves?
That's right. Leave the spot vacant. Jacob of Contextual Criticism: Vatican is afraid of Caroline Kennedy expresses my thoughts best when he says:

Enter the pious prelates from Rome's heavenly realm. No, no, no, they said. She's pro-choice. We can't have anyone here who believes women should have the right to choose with regard to what they can do with their bodies! Furthermore, we can't have anyone within these holy precincts who favors stem cell research (even if those stem cells come from fetuses tossed in the garbage).

Now, the Roman Catholic Church is free to believe and promote whatever religious nonsense it so desires. Ironically, however, the majority of Catholics in the U.S. do not agree with nor follow the lead of the Vatican when it comes to issues such as abortion and contraception.

Nevertheless, it wouldn't make sense to appoint someone to the Holy See who is not wanted by the pompous papists in Vatican City.

An empty seat at the table would be just the thing.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Almost Easter

My daughter, PhillyAngel, didn't believe me when I told her the buds on the tree in our backyard would bloom on Easter.

Cartoon of the Day

Randy Bish, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Freedom From Thought

It's that time of year again. That is, it's time for the Easter Bunny to announce the death & resurrection of Jesus.

It's also time for the annual Blog Against Theocracy, promoting the Separation of Church & State.

This year, my essay focuses on a topic that I have been writing about quite a bit recently -- the "Pay, Pray & Obey" conservative contingent of the Catholic Church.

Most of my musings have been about the deistic doings of Bishop Martino of (my hometown) Scranton, who has single-handedly tried to make the Church a Division of the GOP by refusing communion to Scranton native VP Joe Biden and chastising Senator Bob Casey for paling around with Obama & Biden. He also threatened to lock the doors of the Catheral on St. Patrick's day if a pro-lifer (read that: Biden) was part of the parade, which is a huge event in the Electic City. And then, of course, he challenged a local Catholic college because it dared allow a gay man to speak at a forum (sponsored by the Diversity Institute, of all things) as part of its Black History celebration. See Diversity Defined and The Intolerance Institute.

Martino's views are not just a plague on the city of Scranton, but they speak to the issue of separation of Church & State. When religion requires strict adherence to its beliefs, how can members of a religion govern without conflicts between faith & law? Speaking of Martino's objections to Senator Casey, I observed in The Evil Lurks Within:

I also suppose Martino forgets that the main opposition to JFK as the first Catholic to run for President was that he would put his religious beliefs ahead of those duly enacted laws of the land. Notwithstanding his personal/religious beliefs, abortion is still legal in this country and as a Senator, Casey is obligated to respect those laws.

And as for the Bishop, if Martino was so concerned about "life," where was he on the issue of the unjust war in Iraq? Is he working to end it? How about the death penalty? Nothing extinguishes life like the death penalty. And, let's not forget he is the Bishop in the Scranton Diocese, an area rife with gun lovers. Where does he stand on gun control? Does he preach to his flock to put down the guns? And finally, this is the Catholic Church we're talking about. How did he respond to the pedophiles in the ministry? I'm sure I don't need to answer these hypothetical questions, since the answers are obvious.

Conservative Catholics like Bishop Martino are more prevelant within the Church than at any other time in recent history. As such, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church personifies the importance of the Separation of Church & State.

Of course, the most recent example on a national level is the recent "controversy" over Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama's to speak at its commencement. As I noted last week:

Religious extremism is flourishing and the inability to think critically seems to be a requirement for those religions.

The controversy over President Obama's upcoming commencement address at Notre Dame University is a perfect example of this. Obama Notre Dame Speech: Cardinal George Rips Invitation As An 'Extreme Embarrassment' To Catholics. That is, the right wing faction of the Catholic Church fiercely objects to the idea that Obama will even be permitted to speak at a Catholic institution on any topic, because he does not adhere to all of the tenets of the Church, as promulgated by the Cardinal Newman Society (and he's a Democrat). See Obama and Notre Dame and The Politicization of American Catholicism.

In other words, according to this conservative Catholic contingent, no voice that does not comport with the orthodoxy of the Church should be permitted to be heard at all. Debate? Dissent? Not permitted. Rather, they dictate and the flock obeys. To hear other opinions might cause the faithful to question the rules. For this reason, thinking -- never mind critical thinking -- is heresy.

Pat Buchanan & Lawrence O'Donnell discuss (or, should I say scream about) the issue on Hardball:

Like evangelical Christians, the views of the Catholic Church have become intolerant to ideas that are not part of the dogma of the Church. On the one hand, I respect another's right to believe (even if I believe it is wrong). However, I do object to the insistence that I must abide by those opinions. And that is why religion needs to be kept out of the state. Unless, of course, I'm required to eat chocolate bunnies.

(Poster via coffee messiah)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

You Lost Already

I know that this video is everywhere, but I had to add my own copy. Stewart at his best:

Yes, tyranny. A.K.A. our democratically elected President. You know what guys....I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing. And I feel for you because ah...I've been there. A few times. In fact one of them was a bit of a nail biter. But see, when the guy that you disagree with gets elected, he's probably going to do things you disagree with. He could cut taxes on the wealthy. Remove government's oversight capability. Invade a country that you thought should not be invaded but that's not tyranny. That's democracy.

See now you're in the minority. It's supposed to taste like a s#%t taco. And by the way, if I remember correctly when a disagreement was expressed about that President's actions when ya'll were in power I believe the response was "Why do you hate America?" "Watch what you say." "Love it or leave it." "Suck on my truck nuts."

* * * *

For god's sake guys. You've been out of power for ten f*%#ng weeks. You've got a mid-term election in twenty months. Pace your rage!

(Video via Crooks & Liars, Video Cafe)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

The Tipping Point

Saturday morning, after I heard about the shooting in Pittsburgh, a mere day after the massacre in Binghamton, I posted my reaction/thoughts on my Twitter:

Yesterday Binghamton, today Pittsburgh. Is there ever a tipping point where gun control is the answer?
Of course, I knew the answer to my rhetorical question. There is no answer or Tipping Point. After all, as I've written about before, the NRA & its adherents believe in the Last Man Standing theory of gun control. As long as there is one man standing, that man has a god-given right to bear arms.

Cenk Uygur expresses my thoughts more cogently at the Huffington Post, Have We Reached the Tipping Point on Guns?:

How many shootings does there have to be in the news before we wonder about the wisdom of allowing just about anyone to get a gun in America? Our gun culture is completely out of control.

In just the last two days we have had 13 people killed in Binghamton, NY with a 9 mm and a .45-caliber, three police officers shot and killed in Pittsburgh with an assault rifle and two other guns, and a five children killed with a shotgun in Washington at the hands of their own father. How many will it take before we say enough is enough?

How about the eight people killed in a nursing home in North Carolina a couple of days before these shootings? How about the ten killed in Alabama a couple of weeks earlier? Is there any point when gun rights advocates would admit that we have too much gun violence in America? What will it take for them to acknowledge the most obvious thing in the world?

Of course, their answer is that we don't have enough guns in the country. If we just allowed concealed weapons at schools, nursing homes, work, bars, airports and just about anywhere else you can imagine, then we would have less gun violence. Yes, maybe in bizzaro world, but in this world the more guns we have had in this country the more people have been shot ... with guns.

Right. It's the Last Man Standing philosophy.

(Poster via Phawker)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Cartoon of the Day

John Cole, TheTimes-Tribune

The Resurrection is Coming

In anticipation of Easter, the sermon on the 5th Sunday of Lent (which this year, was March 29, 2009), focuses on the gospel of John 11:25:

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

I may have long ago left the Catholic Church, but obviously the Church hasn't left me. After years of drilling, the liturgy and bible passages still remain buried somewhere in the recesses of the mind. This passage popped into my head when I read about the Ramkissoon case.

The remains of Javon Thompson, a 21 month old baby boy, was found stuffed in a suitcase in South Philly last year. The child's mother and four others were charged with his death. As the Huffington Post reports, Resurrected Child And Ria Ramkissoon: Plea Withdrawn If Son Rises From Dead:

A former religious cult member who helped starve her son to death believes he will be resurrected, but legal experts say her extreme faith doesn't make her criminally insane. The mother made an extraordinary deal with prosecutors Monday that her guilty plea to child abuse resulting in death will be withdrawn if her 1-year-old son, Javon Thompson, comes back to life. Law experts and psychiatrists said there was no problem with the agreement because Ria Ramkissoon, 22, was mentally competent and freely entered into the deal, and extreme religious beliefs aren't deemed insane by law.
The story itself is terribly sad. A mother, who was a member of a religious cult, 1 Mind Ministries, allowed her son to be starved to death, because he refused to say "Amen" before meals. The Inquirer reports, Mother of boy who starved admits guilt - on condition:

According to a statement of facts, the cult members stopped feeding the boy when he refused to say "Amen" after a meal. After Javon died, Ramkissoon sat next to his decomposing body and prayed for his resurrection.

Ramkissoon's attorney, Steven D. Silverman, said Ramkissoon believed the resurrection would occur. She agreed to plead guilty only after prosecutors said they would drop the charges if the child comes back to life, Silverman said.

* * * *

After the boy died, the cult members left his body inside the apartment where they lived until it began to decompose, according to police documents and the statement of facts. In early 2007, they stuffed the body inside a suitcase and filled it with mothballs and fabric-softener sheets to mask the odor.

The cult members relocated to Philadelphia, where they befriended an elderly man and stored the suitcase in a shed behind his home on the 700 block of South 13th Street. It remained there for more than a year before police found it, the documents say.

What is fascinating -- and equally disturbing -- is the aspect of the case that focuses on the beliefs of the religious cult. As the Washington Post notes, Death Opens Doors on Group:
Psychiatrists who evaluated Ramkissoon at the request of a judge concluded that she was not criminally insane. Her attorney, Steven Silverman, said the doctors found that her beliefs were indistinguishable from religious beliefs, in part because they were shared by those around her.

'She wasn't delusional, because she was following a religion,' Silverman said, describing the findings of the doctors' psychiatric evaluation.

* * * *

Silverman said he and prosecutors think Ramkissoon was brainwashed and should have been found not criminally responsible; prosecutors declined to comment. Although an inability to think critically can be a sign of brainwashing, experts said, the line between that and some religious beliefs can be difficult to discern.

"At times there can be an overlap between extreme religious conviction and delusion," said Robert Jay Lifton, a cult expert and psychiatrist who lectures at Harvard Medical School. "It's a difficult area for psychiatry and the legal system."(Emphasis added).

Religious extremism is flourishing and the inability to think critically seems to be a requirement for those religions.

The controversy over President Obama's upcoming commencement address at Notre Dame University is a perfect example of this. Obama Notre Dame Speech: Cardinal George Rips Invitation As An 'Extreme Embarrassment' To Catholics. That is, the right wing faction of the Catholic Church fiercely objects to the idea that Obama will even be permitted to speak at a Catholic insitution on any topic, because he does not adhere to all of the tenets of the Society, as promulgated by the Cardinal Newman Society (and he's a Democrat). See Obama and Notre Dame and The Politicization of American Catholicism.

In other words, according to this conservative Catholic contingent, no voice that does not comport with the orthodoxy of the Church should be permitted to be heard at all. Debate? Dissent? Not permitted. Rather, they dictate and the flock obeys. To hear other opinions might cause the faithful to question the rules. For this reason, thinking -- never mind critical thinking -- is heresy.

And the line between religous belief and madness is sometimes difficult to discern.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Wasilla Snowbillies

If my Palin-Be-Gone Wager hadn't had an expiration date of March 15th, I would have surely been whooped. I would have been the Big Loser, Big Time!!

Ever since our Ides of March wager deadline passed, Sarah Palin has been in the news almost non-stop. See Somebody Up There Likes Me. One of my blogger buddies emailed me to say that Palin has her own news category on AOL News and wondered what impact that would have on my bet. Luckily for me, it's too late to help my LLWL colleague -- even though she has yet to declare me the winner. She's willing to call it a tie, but lord knows I can never concede defeat. So our Old Forge Pizza fest is on hold, to the consternation of the rest of the office.

But even better than winning is the fact that all of the press that's been generated of late has been bad news for Sarah the P.

As Steven Reynolds of All Spin Zone put it, Palin Celebrityhood? Montel, Springer, Tyra Don’t Help Ambitions:

The fun part is that the Palin family is being revealed for the trailer trash sensibilities that are its foundation. Sure, Palin can’t control Levi Johnston going on the Tyra Banks Show, showing off his “Bristol” tattoo, and admitting to wardrobe malfunctions, er, ah, sometimes forgetting to use a condom when screwing making love with Bristol. Heck, she can’t control the video of that appearance, due out Monday but with a sneak peek here. But Sarah Palin can control the reactions of her staff.

Sarah Palin, if she had class at all, would react to this little episode with resounding silence. But, no. Class doesn’t enter into it. Here’s the scoop on the Sarah Palin reaction from that celebrity gossip magazine People:

“Bristol did not even know Levi was going on the show. We’re disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship,” says the statement from the Palin family rep.

“Bristol’s focus will remain on raising Tripp, completing her education, and advocating abstinence,” the statement continues. “It is unfortunate that Levi finds it more appealing to exploit his previous relationship with Bristol than to contribute to the well being of the child.”

The statement ends, saying, “Bristol realizes now that she made a mistake in her relationship and is the one taking responsibility for their actions.”

After I finished chuckling when I heard this, my next thought was that it had the delicious sounds of a Hatfield/McCoy feud in the making. And, if that wasn't enough, to follow up on that was the news of the arrest of Palin's sister-in-law. As noted by Mudflats, Palin Family Drama… It Never Ends:

Remember when Mercede Johnston was lamenting that the Palins thought of her and her family as “white trash” and thought they weren’t good enough for the Palins after the arrest of their mother Sherry Johnston for dealing oxy-contin in the parking lot of the Wasilla Target store?

Well… This just in.

[Todd Palin's half-sister] Diana Palin is charged with two counts of felony burglary and misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass and theft in connection with the break-ins this week at a home in Wasilla, the governor’s hometown.

Deputy Wasilla Police Chief Greg Wood says the 35-year-old woman was confronted by the homeowner, who hid in the home to see if he could catch the burglar who stole $400 Tuesday night.

I don’t watch reality TV, nor do I watch soap operas. Nor do I need to.

I normally don't post the entire entry of another blogger, but I just can't resist with this one. It just says it all. From Mamadance, comes Having a Rough Week, Sarah? :

It sure was hard to be Sarah Palin this week. Let’s do a quick run-down of this week’s highlights:

Saturday-Sunday: Mount Redoubt covers Anchorage with ash, airport closed off and on all weekend. Thousands stranded. Six million gallons of oil at the Drift River Terminal sit in harm’s way at the base of the volcano. Palin’s response? None.

Sunday: John McCain says he’d like to “see who else is running” before endorsing Sarah for President in 2012.

Monday: Palin’s approval index plummets to 14 points.

Tuesday: Sarah is dumped for Newt Gingrich.

Wednesday: Native groups oppose the selection of Wayne Anthony Ross to AG. Also, Todd Palin decides it’s his turn in the spotlight, and it doesn’t look good for Sarah.

Thursday: Democrats reject Palin’s pick for Senate seat.

Friday: Levi tells Tyra that Sarah knew that he and Bristol were sexually active and even let him sleep over.

Oh, and let’s not forget: Don Young suggests that Ted Stevens should run against Palin for Governor in 2010.

Palin’s response? “I’m having a great week! I would never get anything done if I always tried to please my critics.” Uh, yeah…right.

UPDATE, 2:11 pm, Friday: Todd Palin’s Half Sister Arrested for Burglary

Even if I end up having to buy (or split) the pizza, it makes it all worthwhile.

(Poster via The Mudflats)

Holder On

When I first heard the news on Wednesday morning that the AG Eric Holder was planning to recommend tossing the conviction of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, my first thought was that it had to be an April Fool's joke.

However, Scott Horton, who has been on top of the DOJ debacle, explains in a recent Harper's piece, Justice on Stevens:

Attorney General Eric Holder has decided that the Justice Department should abandon the corruption conviction secured against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. The bombshell decision has nothing to do with the merits of the case against Stevens–it stems from a recognition that the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section behaved unethically in the conduct of the case—withholding vital evidence from the defense, among other things. Holder is himself a former Public Integrity prosecutor. He made the right call in the Stevens case.
After listening to the rationale why the conviction should be overturned, due to the egregious misconduct of the prosecutors, my second thought was: OK, I can accept that. But, using that analysis, how about the Siegelman and Wecht cases? As Horton observes:
The Stevens prosecution is only one of roughly two dozen cases in which similar charges have been made on a credible level–collectively they make plain that an ethically-challenged “victory at all costs” mentality is now well entrenched there. Judge Sullivan, presiding over the Stevens case, asked an important question: “Does the Public Integrity Section have any integrity?” By referring the Stevens matter to the Office of Professional Responsibility for an investigation and possible internal disciplinary action—in addition to the sanctions that Judge Sullivan is promising—Holder makes clear that he appreciates the gravity of the damage done to the department’s reputation during the Bush era.

Holder’s difficult decision was essential, but it was only a first step. The Stevens prosecution was undertaken just as the Justice Department was coming under sustained fire from Congress and the media over a pattern of political prosecutions. The misconduct by prosecutors in the Stevens case, bad as it was, is trivial compared to what went on in a number of other political prosecutions which have been profiled here–the Siegelman case, the prosecutions of Paul Minor and two Mississippi judges, and the prosecution of Cyril Wecht.

All of these cases cry out for prompt investigation. Holder has taken the right first step. But much remains to be done if the Justice Department is to win back its reputation for integrity in politically-tinged cases. Restoring that reputation should be a top priority for Holder. Today he signals that it is a top priority.

As we know, the DOJ was politicized during the reign of Bush. See RTAs 'R Us at Justice. Not surprisingly, that corruption seeped into the public integrity division of the Department as well. An article by Horton in the American Lawyer, Public Indecency, explores this serious concern:

The U.S. Department of Justice's public integrity section was once something of a showcase operation. Its purpose was to go after corrupt politicians and judges and to help ensure the integrity of the electoral process. It stood for the highest ethical standards in government, and it was supposed to put teeth in those standards.

Today, however, the public integrity section is reeling. Federal judges in Washington, D.C., and Maine have questioned the section's ethics and motivations. A special prosecutor is investigating whether cases brought by the section were politically motivated.

* * * *

What went wrong at this institution? The problems are too systematic to be laid simply at the foot of partisan politics. In fact, the section has usually been led by a career prosecutor, such as the current incumbent, William Welch II.

The whistle-blower's accusations in the Stevens case suggest a victory-at-all-costs attitude, which is difficult to reconcile with the section's ostensible purpose of upholding ethics. That attitude was also apparent in the case of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, where the public integrity section suppressed another whistle-blower's claims of jury tampering and political manipulation. That information only became public in a House Judiciary Committee investigation in 2008.

Equally troublesome are charges that public integrity cases were politically manipulated. Statistics show that, during the George W. Bush presidency, roughly six cases were opened involving Democrats for every one involving a Republican. A Justice Department probe into the 2006 sacking of nine U.S. attorneys, which was led by Inspector General Glenn Fine, concluded that there was substantial evidence of such manipulation, but because Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and other Bush White House figures refused to cooperate, Fine could not conclude his investigation. A special prosecutor, Nora Dannehy, was appointed to pursue the matter.

If Holder's next moves are to exonerate those Democrats like Siegelman and Wecht who were also wrongfully prosecuted by the DOJ, see, e.g., Time to Go, it helps silence the outcry by the Republicans that a Democratic Administration is playing favorites. A brilliant move, if that was the plan.

Of course, the GOP is trying to spin this as a complete exoneration of Stevens, which is far from the case. Instead, it merely speaks to the fact that the conviction was tainted by the prosecutorial misconduct of the DOJ. The fact is, Stevens ended up going free because of a "technicality," which is the kinda stuff that normally drives the Republicans nuts when applied to most criminal defendants.

It is somewhat ironic that DOJ ended up applying the same corrupt standards to republicans as democrats. Some have suggested that this was due to incompetence on the part of the prosecutors, as being the only logical explanation for targeting their own party in the politicized environment that was DOJ in the Bush Administration. They were corrupt AND incompetent.

On this one, I have to disgree. I'm not sure that they were incompetent so much as arrogant. Having worked in the D.A.'s office one time in my life (long ago & far away), I learned that there is a certain personality that tends to gravitate to criminal law, especially prosecutors. I have found that prosecutors generally have a self-righteous, right and wrong view of the world. On the one hand, it's what makes them so good at their job -- a sense of mission, of doing the right thing. On the other hand, it can be so narrow-visioned as to cloud their judgment. The single-minded "win at all costs" mentality, that so infused the DOJ during the Bush Administration was so extreme that they truly came to believe that the rules just didn't apply to them. It was a philosophy generally adopted by the Bush Administration, so why not for them?

Peek-a-boo Rainbow

The skies from the east and the west, with a rainbow peeking through, after the torrential rains last night.