Monday, November 28, 2005

Corrupt Congressman: I Mislead Myself

After months of denying any wrongdoing, Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California resigned from the House today as he admitted taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. This included a Rolls Royce and more than a million dollars to pay down a mortgage on a "mansion" in Rancho Santa Fe. Defense contractor Mitchell Wade reportedly bought another home from the congressman at a hugely inflated price and then allowed Representative Cunningham to live on a yacht owned by the contractor. Oh, and the yacht's name? It was the Duke Stir.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has 14 days to set an election date to replace Cunningham, who faces up to 10 years in prison during sentencing in late February.

Want to Help School Kids in Iraq?

Bob Bateman has posted this request in a letter to Romenesko. I reprint it in its entirety, for your consideration.

Ten months ago, not long after my arrival here in Iraq, a friend posted to this letters page a personal plea for some reading material, and perhaps a little French Vanilla non-dairy creamer. The response from Romenesko readers, and those at Eric Alterman's site, overwhelmed. As an example, your generosity buried us beneath one hundred and thirty pounds of French Vanilla creamer. Have you any idea of the cubic volume which that much creamer occupies? Just as importantly, at least for my own sense of mental balance, were subscriptions to the New Yorker, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal ...all unexpected, each of which did its part in preserving an important part of each of us here.

Now I have something else to ask.

I have carried weapons for seventeen years, weapons which made journalism possible in this country. But I have known from the outset that ultimately, only journalists can save this country. There is a catch. In this I refer to neither American journalists, nor European ones, but Iraqis. I live in a city in which Boss Tweed would feel completely at ease. I want to help create his Thomas Nast, or the Iraqi Upton Sinclair, and there is only one way to do that. Education.

Accordingly, I browbeat my peers into helping me in the de facto adoption of a school here. It's just one school, but it is a start. There are 450 grade school boys (a riotous unruly pack), about 400 grade school girls (well behaved and groomed), and an as-of-yet undetermined number of High Schoolers. The school is ramshackled, dirty, and underprovisioned in every category but the dedication of the teachers. I want to change the first three parts of that situation, and I want you all to help.

So, if you want to send some school supplies, this is, generically, what the kids need. This list is not exhaustive (please, feel free to use your
imagination as well), but can be used as a starting point.

First, the basics:

Number 2 Pencils and pencil sharpeners
Pens (ball-point)
Tablets of Paper (spiral notebooks especially)
Folders and/or organizers
Scissors (safety)
Magic Markers
Construction Paper
Staplers and Staples (for the teachers)

Then, if you're feeling fancy or expansive:

* Bookbags (Iraqi kids have now seen American television. They see our kids wearing bookbags and want them too. Go figure.)

* Coloring Books

* Art kits (watercolor paints, etc)

* Science projects (should be simple, although most science teachers can read some English here)

* Discarded (but working) computers, printers, and paper.

* Calculators

* Dry erase boards and markers

Guiding principals should be to keep it simple, and it should not be
something needing translation. Also, and this should be obvious, but nothing with any religious overtones at all. (FSM be praised) If you really want to do it right, buy some one-gallon bags and package the supplies in batches (so that each kid can be given a bag with supplies all at once). That way we can walk into a classroom and hand out 30 bags to 30 kids all at one pop. You know the deal, if you're going to chew gum in the have to have enough for everyone. We try to make sure (with their teachers) that everyone gets an equal amount. We are also currently working with the teachers to find out what their "wish list" might be.

The person to whom you should send your donations is:

SFC L. Wensink
Baghdad, Iraq
APO AE 09316

SFC Wensink will be here for ten more months. (I am only here for six more weeks myself, in mid-January 2006 and so will likely not see this project when it reaches full stride.) Include a note with your e-mail address in the package so that we can write back and thank you. Hopefully past that point we can set up something more direct to sustain the support for these schools. Feel free to cross post anywhere you think it might help. If you want to expand this (those of you who are editors) contact me and I'll write an editorial for you. Whatever it takes.

But even this is not enough. I want to make this one school a model, and to do that we need some expertise. I have a vision of an Iraqi High School where the kids learn how to do their own reporting. Where they have the ability to create (however rudimentary at the beginning) a school newspaper. A school where they learn who Nast and Sinclair were, or at least Amin Maalouf, and where they learn how honest words can change the world. That means (as appropriate) I want reporters who come here to Baghdad to GO to this school, with the blessings of their editors, and donate a day to teaching journalism to classrooms full of Iraqi kids. Not just this year, but for years to come. If you can do that, contact me and I'll give you the coordinates to the school (and directions).

Not every child will respond, of course. You all know that as well as I. Not every child wants to be a journalist, or a soldier, but without the right examples, what grows in their places is not good for the world. Without a beginning, we may never see the end here.

Thanks, and regards from Baghdad,

Bob Bateman

Bob Woodward is a Clown

This year, I lost any respect I may have had for the N.Y. Times for allowing Ms. Miller to play her games. Early this month, I lost any remaining interest in the L.A. Times when it fired Bob Scheer and (politically opposite) Michael Ramirez, among others.

Now I've lost any lingering appreciation I may have had for the Washington Post, for not firing Bob Woodward with gusto. As with the NYT case, Bob and the Post are doing all they can to convince us that their job is to keep information secret, especially from their readers. As I see it, that's a job for the CIA, not so-called journalists.

Today we read that, even though Mr. Woodward has given interviews with Larry King and the Village Voice, he refuses to be interviewed by the Post. That's right, he won't talk to his own paper, even while allowing interviews by competitors! How does he keep his job? A better question is asking why anybody will bother to buy that paper any more.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Allawi: As Bad As Saddam's Time

Ayad Allawi, the former Iraqi Prime Minister, and the U.S. pick to lead the country, has reportedly said that human rights abuse is as bad as when Saddam Hussein ruled the country.
"People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Bus Rider Arrested for Not Showing ID

According to this page at, Deborah Davis was riding a public bus to work. While riding through an area of Denver which is home to several federal buildings, a security guard boarded the public bus and demanded to see identification for all passengers. There was no emergency. This was apparently routine. The first time this happened, Ms. Davis complied. But it troubled her.
When she got home, what had happened on the bus began to bother her. "This is not a police state or communist Russia", she thought. From her 8th grade Civics class she knew there is no law requiring her, as an American citizen, to carry ID or any papers, much less show them to anyone on a public bus.

She decided she would no longer show her ID on the bus.
On Monday, September 26th 2005, the bus was again stopped and boarded by a security guard asking for passenger ID. This time she politely refused. She had done nothing wrong, there was no emergency, and she was riding on public transportation going to work.

A federal police officer was then brought on board and demanded her ID. Again, she politely declined, for the same reasons. Then a second police officer boarded the public bus. After she refused this second officer's demand for ID, she was grabbed and forced off the bus and arrested. Her personal belongings, scattered in the bus during her removal, were retrieved by the police and searched when she was taken to the police station.

She will be arraigned on December 9th in a U.S. District Court.

Richardson Never Drafted, by Baseball

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson admitted today that, contrary to decades of claiming otherwise, he was not drafted by the Kansas City Athletics baseball team back in the mid 1960's.
"After being notified of the situation and after researching the matter ... I came to the conclusion that I was not drafted by the A's," he said.
Too bad he didn't do that research back in 1987, or in 1997, when official biographies included the false information. Maybe, one day, we'll have a Democratic presidential hopeful who doesn't have a history of telling untruths. Maybe.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Mike Brown, Disaster Consultant

Ummm, I can't really add anything to the NY Times headline:
Ex - FEMA Head Starts Disaster Planning Firm
Let's see how long before government money heads his way.

via Kos

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Was Cantu Innocent When Executed?

There seems to be growing evidence that Reuben Cantu may have been innocent when he was executed in 1993, at age 19, for a crime which occurred two years earlier. According to this investigative piece by Lise Oslen in the Houston Chronicle, there was no physical evidence connecting Cantu to the crime, questionable actions by the police at the time, and now the primary witness is saying he identified the wrong man. Even the man most responsible for Cantu's execution seems to be having second thoughts.
Sam Millsap Jr., the former Bexar County district attorney who made the decision to charge Cantu with capital murder, says he never should have sought the death penalty in a case based on the testimony of an eyewitness who identified Cantu only after police officers showed him Cantu's photo three separate times.

"It's so questionable. There are so many places where it could break down," said Millsap, now in private practice. "We have a system that permits people to be convicted based on evidence that could be wrong because it's mistaken or because it's corrupt."
Indeed. And it seems Mr. Millsap played his part in a system which may have executed an innocent teenager. No word if Mr. Millsap or any other authorities will be charged with homicide if it is found that Ruben Cantu was innocent when the state killed him.

Kerry Wins!! As Jury Foreman

Ok, just something to smile about.

John Kerry was elected jury foreman in a Suffolk Superior Court this week. Apparently he performed his civic duty with skill.
"I just found him to be a knowledgeable, normal person," said Cynthia Lovell, a nurse and registered Republican who says she now regrets voting for President Bush in last year's election. "He kept us focused. He wanted us all to have our own say."
via HuffPo

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Did Bush Consider Bombing Al Jazeera?

The White House is refusing to comment on a story published by the Daily Mirror which says a secret memo from Prime Minister Blair's office indicates the U.S. President had to be talked out of bombing the Al Jazeera news headquarters during April of 2004.
"We are not going to dignify something so outlandish with a response," a White House official told CNN. A Pentagon official called the Daily Mirror report "absolutely absurd."
The memo is the subject of a lawsuit and the paper's editors are being threatened with prosecution under the U.K. Official Secrets Act.

Limbaugh: Murtha's a Useful Idiot

Media Matters is reporting that Rush Limbaugh, apparently not content with Rep. Jean Schmidt stealing the low-ground, is calling Rep. Murtha (the first Vietnam vet to be elected, in 1974, to the House) a "useful idiot" because he wants U.S. troops to be redeployed from Iraq at the earliest practicable date.
"Not really that interested in Murtha, ladies and gentlemen, to tell you the truth. I know he got everybody's dander up all last week, but I think he's just the useful idiot of the moment. He's just -- I mean I'm not taking away from his service in Vietnam. Uh, it's -- it's not his service that we are questioning. We're questioning his judgment here."

G.O.P Rewriting History with Oreos?

Since the notion of rewriting history seems to be in the air, it seems to be a good time to mention the whole Oreo tempest, which has been brewing this month. The Baltimore City Paper has a good review of the story about Oreo Cookies reportedly being thrown at Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who is black, during a debate in 2002.

While the story has been widely reported as fact by at least a half-dozen news outfits, it seems nobody, including the reporters who wrote about the incident, have any direct evidence that it actually happened. Instead, S.A. Miller, the reporter for the Washington Times who first wrote about the incident earlier this month, is quoted as justifying his assertion because he had "no reason to doubt that it happened". Indeed, Mr. Miller can't recall where he heard it, except from "people on the Ehrlich campaign". Republican Robert Ehrlich is Maryland's governor and was Steele's running mate.

Mr. Steele is now saying he was never "pelted" with cookies (as had been reported), but "The one or two that I saw at my feet were there. I just happened to look down and see them".

So, the story goes from "It was raining Oreos. They were thick in the air like locusts", to being "one or two" cookies on the stage, near Steele's feet.

via Romenesko

Rewriting History: Scalia's Turn

The New York Post is reporting that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is blaming Democrats for the 2000 Presidential debacle.
"The election was dragged into the courts by the Gore people. We did not go looking for trouble."
But, wasn't it the Bush campaign which "dragged" the issue into federal court? Why, yes it was. That's why the case is known as Bush v. Gore. Earlier lawsuits initiated by the Gore campaign were themselves a result of Florida Sec. of State (and Bush campaign co-chair) Katherine Harris and her questionable post-election actions. So maybe she "dragged" the election into court.

Additionally, it's important to remember that it was Justice Scalia himself who ordered a stop to vote counting in Florida, effectively deciding the election in favor of Bush.

via HuffPo

Friday, November 18, 2005

Jean Schmidt, Coward

Congressperson Jean Schmidt today suggested that fellow Congressperson, and Marine Veteran, John Murtha was a coward for introducing a resolution that the U.S. pull out of Iraq at the earliest practicable date.
A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bop, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.
After Democrats immediately erupted in anger, the Speaker Pro Tempore ordered the remarks withdrawn from the record.

Shortly there after, Republicans introduced this single sentenced resolution:
"It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately."
While substantially different than the Murtha resolution, it would be difficult to tell from the mainstream press' coverage of the vote, which makes it seem as if it was the Murtha bill which was voted on.

The Republican resolution (for immediate withdrawal) was defeated 403-3.

The Murtha resolution (withdrawal at some future date) was not allowed a vote.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Politics of Plan B Rejection

The New York Times is reporting that the U.S. government resolved to reject the application to sell Plan B over the counter, no matter the science.

Top federal drug officials decided to reject an application to allow over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill months before a government scientific review of the application was completed, according to accounts given to Congressional investigators.

Monday, November 14, 2005

No Really, Do We Torture?

Last week the President got a lot of press for defiantly asserting that "We do not torture" prisoners in our custody. Today we start hearing something else.

via HuffPo