Archive for October, 2007

Joe Bodell has posted something interesting over at Minnesota Campaign Report. Here’s what Mr. Bodell said that caught my attention:

Have you heard the latest allegations against Mark Ritchie? The ones saying that some people, including state employees, received solicitations from Ritchie’s campaign after not having given their email addresses to the campaign? Big. Fat. Hairy. Deal.

Those addresses could have come from anywhere. The recipients of Ritchie’s campaign solicitation could have submitted their email addresses to any number of organizations whose email lists Ritchie was renting. This happens all the time; for example, I never submitted my email address to California Senator Barbara Boxer’s campaign, but they somehow have it. List rental is a way of life for both parties. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something. Not to mention the fact that the contact information in this particular case was public information.

Instead of making any recriminations against Mr. Ritchie, let’s find the truth. If the Ritchie campaign got Mark Giga’s and Jack Tomzcak’s names from a listserv, then the Ritchie campaign should be able to show in their expenditures their buying of lists. This could be cleared up by simply showing proof that the Ritchie campaign had purchased a list with Giga’s and Tomzcak’s names on them.

When I worked at Fingerhut, we handled a project called NCOA, which stood for National Change Of Address. NCOA lists were created by the Post Office to update addresses. That made those lists very expensive to listserv companies. Buying NCOA tapes was as close to guaranteeing that the addresses the company was buying was accurate.

Lists that didn’t use NCOA data weren’t nearly as reliable as the NCOA files.

Here’s what the KSTP article said:

At least three attendees received a fundraising email last week from Ritchie’s
campaign. Neither attendee in the formal complaint filed with the Legislative Auditor had been the previous recipient of fundraising from Ritchie or his campaign.

Is it purely coincidental that people attending the Secretary of State’s official function signed up for email updates, then shortly thereafter, they got their first contribution solicitations from Mark Ritchie’s campaign staff?

What’s troubling about this is that Mark Ritchie is in charge of making sure elections run smoothly. Here’s what the Secretary of State’s website says with regard to elections:

The secretary of state is the chief election official in Minnesota and is responsible for administration of the Minnesota election law. In this capacity, the secretary of state operates the statewide voter registration system and prepares the official roster of voters for every election conducted in Minnesota. Other election activities include certifying voting systems, conducting administrative recounts, accepting filings by candidates for multi-county offices, and training of local election officials. The secretary of state chairs the state canvassing board, which certifies the results of state elections.

Here’s some of the things contained in Minnesota’s election laws:

Residence shall be determined in accordance with the following principles, so far as they may be applicable to the facts of the case:
(a) The residence of an individual is in the precinct where the individual’s home is located, from which the individual has no present intention of moving, and to which, whenever the individual is absent, the individual intends to return;
(b) An individual does not lose residence if the individual leaves home to live temporarily in another state or precinct;
c) An individual does not acquire a residence in any precinct of this state if the individual is living there only temporarily, without the intention of making that precinct home;
(d) If an individual goes into another state or precinct with the intention of making it home or files an affidavit of residence there for election purposes, the individual loses residence in the former precinct;
(e) If an individual moves to another state with the intention of living there for an indefinite period, the individual loses residence in this state, notwithstanding any intention to return at some indefinite future time;
(f) Except as otherwise provided in this section, an individual’s residence is located in the precinct where the individual’s family lives, unless the individual’s family is living in that precinct only temporarily;

In other words, Minnesota’s Secretary of State is in charge of administering the rules of who is and who isn’t a Minnesota resident.

I’d bet that most Minnesotans would think that that’s one of the most sensitive issues in elections, especially with the unsolved immigration problem. Let’s also remember this Powerline post just prior to the 2004 election:

Among the well-funded and supposedly independent groups supporting John Kerry in the campaign is Americans Coming Together (ACT). ACT has taken notice of Minnesota’s special vulnerabilty to vote fraud and organized a sophisticated effort to exploit it in a manner that violates Minnesota law. In Minnesota the Bush campaign has come into the possession of the following email from ACT to its Minnesota volunteers:

Election Day is upon us. You are confirmed to volunteer with ACT (America Coming Together – on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov 2.

We will be creating name badges that include your Ward and Precinct information for each of the thousands of volunteers that day to make it easier to find a volunteer to vouch for a voter at the polls.

I am emailing you to request your street address, city and zipcode. We’ve already got your other contact information, but your record in our database does not include this information.

You can save us time on election day by replying today to this email with this information, or give us a call at [phone number with St. Paul area code].

In order to get your badge correct, please reply by Thursday.

Thank you for your help and cooperation. See you on Election Day!

This email is a smoking gun of massive premeditated vote fraud. The ACT effort contemplates the prepositioning of registered voters as volunteers at their precincts of residence to provide the “vouching” necessary to get individuals registered to vote on election day in the precinct whether or not the volunteer “personally knows” the residence of the unregistered voter. It is a recipe for illegal voting in every precinct of the state.

In other words, voter fraud isn’t just something that happens in Chicago or Philadelphia or St. Louis. As you can see, the potential for voter fraud is quite real here in Minnesota.

That’s why it’s imperative that our Secretary of State be beyond trustworthy. That’s why it’s important that our Secretary of State isn’t a partisan.

Let’s also remember this blast from Mark Ritchie’s not-so-distant past:

What makes Mark an extraordinary, visionary leader?

Mark’s vision for Minnesota is to see the state eliminate barriers to voting and to have voter participation drastically increase. Mark formed his vision for Minnesota when he created NOVEMBER 2, a non-partisan voter registration campaign. NOVEMBER 2 was able to get more than 1,000 groups to register more than five million new voters nationwide. Mark believes that although this campaign was very successful, we still have to overcome obstacles created by the secretary of state offices in Ohio, Florida, and Minnesota. For the past 15 years Mark has worked for voters rights and election protection and he knows that much more needs to be done before elections are made fully free and fair.

My jaw almost hit the floor reading that. I found this by plugging Ellen Malcolm’s name into a Google search with Mark Ritchie’s name. Ellen Malcolm was the president of ACT. Now we find that the Minnesota’s “chief election official” was touted by an affiliate of ACT’s as a “visionary leader” hoping to “eliminate barriers to voting” and seeing “voter participation drastically increase.” Forgive me but my inner cynic says that that sounds like a recipe for instituting a voter fraud system.

I don’t think that’s the type of thing Minnesotans want their Secretary of State, their chief election official, involved with.

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Mark Ritchie campaigned on the grounds that he’d take partisanship out of the Secretary of State office. Now Rep. Laura Brod and Rep. Tom Emmer are asking the House Government Operations Committee to investigate charges that Secretary of State Ritchie turned over names from an event to his campaign staff. Michael Brodkorb summarizes things nicely here:

“Mark Ritchie, the state’s chief election official, was accused on Monday of improperly using a list of participants in a Secretary of State civic engagement program to solicit contributions for his own political campaign.

In a complaint to the Minnesota Legislative Auditor, two people said they were asked to participate in the ‘Civic Education’ program earlier this year and provided e-mail addresses and other contact information to the Secretary of State’s office. They subsequently received an e-mail newsletter from the Ritchie campaign committee that solicited a political contribution at an upcoming fundraiser.

Minnesota Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles confirmed his office received the complaint letter on Monday and said his office would conduct a preliminary investigation.

‘It certainly falls within our jurisdiction to see whether public money or state assets were used appropriately,’ Nobles said.

It isn’t a stretch to say that candidate Mark Ritchie used information gathered at Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s public event to send out fundraising letters to people at the Taxpayers League and the Citizens in Charge Foundation.

Here’s more from Michael’s post:

Mark Giga, director of outreach for the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and Jack Tomzcak, executive director of Citizens in Charge Foundation began receiving solicitations for contributions from Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s campaign only after they attended a “civic education” meeting on April 2, 2007, which was organized by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s official office at taxpayer expense. Ritchie was present at the April 2nd meeting held at the Retirement Systems of Minnesota Building, where the business functions of the Secretary of State’s office are located.

Giga and Tomczak both allege they received solicitations for contributions from Ritchie’s campaign on October 22, 2007 through the specific contact information provided at the April 2nd meeting and in subsequent communications with Ritchie’s official office.

I spoke with Giga and Tomzcak last evening and they both stated they had not received fundraising solicitations from Ritchie’s campaign through the specific contact information provided at the April 2nd meeting until after the meeting.

Furthermore, at no time did Giga or Tomczak, both Republicans, provide Ritchie’s campaign with the specific contact information through which they received their solicitation for contributions on October 22, 2007.

What this means is that Mark Giga and Jack Tomzcak have pointed out how they didn’t start getting campaign letters until they attended Secretary of State Ritchie’s taxpayer event.

Here’s what the Strib reported:

In a complaint to the Minnesota Legislative Auditor, two people said they were asked to participate in the “Civic Education” program earlier this year and provided e-mail addresses and other contact information to the Secretary of State’s office. They subsequently received an e-mail newsletter from the Ritchie campaign committee that solicited a political contribution at an upcoming fundraiser.

The bottom line is that this isn’t the first time a DFL state officeholder has been charged with corruption. Drew Emmer, Michael Brodkorb and I have talked extensively about Lori Swanson’s ethical lapses. Here’s one of Drew’s posts about Swanson:

Here’s the smoking gun folks. The AP article and Swanson’s beautifully crafted televison press conference both claimed that victimized senior citizens were sold policies that prevented them from accessing their funds until their 90th birthday. That’s a blatant misrepresenattion of the truth. Either Swanson wears it or the AP wears it. But that claim, the very basis for calling American Equity a company that is a “predator on elderly Minnesotans” appears to be a complete fabrication.

Last year, Democrats ran on the “Culture of Corruption” soundbyte. This year, they aren’t saying a thing about their possible ethical lapses. This time, Mark Riga and Jack Tomzcak seem to have proof that there’s fire amongst the smoke. This is a test for Representative Gene Pelowski, Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee. If Rep. Pelowski takes the Sertich approach to investigations, then he will have proven that the DFL isn’t serious about tackling the corruption issue. Here’s a reminder of what Rep. Sertich didn’t do in the Rules Committee:

Twice, the House voted unanimously to have the House Rules Committee investigate the allegations that Lori Swanson fired at least one attorney in the AG’s office for trying to organize a union in the AG’s office. Twice, Sertich refused to even conduct a hearing or hear testimony.

Here’s the simple question that voters need to ask: Will we demand that politicians steer clear of corruption or will we say that we’re powerless when we spot corruption?

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During last night’s debate, Hillary was asked whether she supported Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give drivers licenses to illegal aliens. It wasn’t a pretty picture. Hillary launched into a tirade blaming everything on President Bush. According to this article in, her rivals jumped all over her answer, as did Tim Russert:

It was not just that her answer about whether illegal immigrants should be issued drivers’ licenses was at best incomprehensible and at worst misleading.

It was that for two hours she dodged and weaved, parsed and stonewalled.

And when it was over, both the Barack Obama and John Edwards campaigns signaled that in the weeks ahead they intend to hammer home a simple message: Hillary Clinton does not say what she means or mean what she says.

And she gave them plenty of ammunition Tuesday night.

Asked whether she still agrees with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, Clinton launched into a long, complicated defense of it.

But when Chris Dodd attacked the idea a moment later, Clinton quickly said: “I did not say that it should be done.”

NBC’s Tim Russert, one of the debate moderators, jumped in and said to her: “You told (a) New Hampshire paper that it made a lot of sense. Do you support his plan?”

”You know, Tim,” Clinton replied, “this is where everybody plays ‘gotcha.’”

John Edwards immediately went for the jugular. “Unless I missed something,” he said, “Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes. America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who will be consistent, who will be straight with them.”

Barack Obama added: “I was confused (by) Senator Clinton’s answer. I can’t tell whether she was for it or against it. One of the things that we have to do in this country is to be honest about the challenges that we face.”

I doubt that this will keep her from winning the Democratic nomination. I’m equally certain that that night’s performance will show up in the GOP’s candidate’s ad campaign. Hillary’s panderfest on the stage at Drexel last night will offer a stark contrast to Rudy Giuliani’s forthrightness. You can disagree with Rudy on certain issues. It’s even fair to say that he’s had a few missteps.

This wasn’t a policy disgreement with Hillary and it wasn’t that she misstated what she meant to say. She said what she meant to say. Unfortunately for her, someone caught her doing what she’s done consistently. Hillary’s tried being all things to all people in the hopes of maximizing her vote totals.

That’s the wrong thing to do this year. People are looking for a leader who’s straight with them, who won’t talk out of both sides of their mouth. That won’t be good for Hillary because she’s nothing if not a panderer.

Here’s the video proof that she’s a panderer with a ‘deer in the headlights’ look in her eyes:

Captain Ed sums it up perfectly when he says that “She can expect to live with this YouTube for the next year.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Contrary to Harry Reid’s and Nancy Pelosi’s letter to President Bush, the surge hasn’t failed. We have additional proof thanks to this Financial Times article. First, here’s what Reid’s and Pelosi’s letter said:

“As many had foreseen, the escalation has failed to produce the intended results,” the two leaders wrote. “The increase in US forces has had little impact in curbing the violence or fostering political reconciliation. It has not enhanced Americas national security. The unsettling reality is that instances of violence against Iraqis remain high and attacks on US forces have increased. In fact, the last two months of the war were the deadliest to date for US troops.”

Let’s compare that with the Financial Times’ article:

The Iraqi government reported on Monday that civilian casualties dropped by more than 50 per cent in September, a month in which US casualties also declined to their lowest level in 14 months.

All estimates of civilian casualties are contentious, due to the difficulty of obtaining complete data from conflict zones scattered across the country as well as the danger that statistics will be politically manipulated.

But September’s drop is one of the most dramatic since the Iraqi government began releasing figures, and is in rough accordance with other data suggesting levels of violence may be dropping.

I’m more apt to believe that Iraqi civilian deaths are dropping thanks to this Powerline article:

At what’s believed to be the world’s largest cemetery, where Shiite Muslims aspire to be buried and millions already have been, business isn’t good.
A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months, and that’s cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.

If Iraqis are being killed, they certainly wouldn’t be cutting “the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.” Before anyone mentions that Powerline’s post talks about a Shiite cemetery, it’s important to remember that things have changed dramatically in the Sunni province of Anbar Province. That success has helped other areas stabilize. Here’s what Gen. Petraeus said:

Gen. David Petraeus, the top military official in Iraq, said this week that the coalition had driven al-Qa’eda out of every major stronghold in Baghdad, but he refused to declare victory against the group, warning that it remained capable of mounting devastating, spectacular attacks.

Anbar is a bright spot, AQI has essentially been run out of Baghdad and Shiite deaths have dropped so dramatically that they’re cutting the pay of workers “who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.” That sounds like a downward trend in Iraqi civilian casualties and MNF-I casualties.

It’s a welcome report after months and years of taking a step forward, then a step back.

Thankfully, Gen. Petraeus didn’t pay attention to Reid’s and Pelosi’s letter. I’d suggest that we ignore their letter, too.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

One Media Matters-like organization is already too many. It appears as though there’s another liberal apologist blog out there. Their name is News Hounds. The post that caught my attention dealt with last weekend’s interview of Justin and Darryl Sharraltt on Hannity’s America. To say that their post didn’t attempt to refute Justin’s story is understatement. In fact, they jump right into criticizing Mr. Hannity:

Last night’s (October 27th) Hannity’s America was a strange magazine format which combined stories about mediums and haunted houses with a lead off interview that was billed as “The Truth About Haditha.” Hannity is a college drop out with no professional journalism credentials and this lack of professional journalistic acumen was well reflected in Hannity’s “leading questions” which served a political agenda. (Comment: Although Fox’s Chris Wallace can be partisan, he looks like Cronkite compared to Sean Hannity!)

Hannity billed his interview with Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt, his lawyer, and his father as “exclusive.” He began by noting that this interview would be a response to Congressman John Murtha and military officials who are “trying to paint the story with a different brush.” Before the interview began, Hannity set up the Fox/right wing premise by asking the not so rhetorical question “have politics gotten in the way of patriotism?” Without doing an overview of the Haditha story, he asked Sharratt to explain what happened on that fateful day. Hannity asked Sharratt if he saw any of his fellow Marines doing anything that they weren’t supposed to do. Not surprisingly, Sharratt said that he didn’t. Hannity mentioned the article in Time Magazine which reported that the Haditha civilians claimed they were attacked by the Marines. Hannity asked Sharratt why Time would report that and Sharratt said he didn’t know.

You’ll notice that Newshounds doesn’t mention Capt. Jeffrey Dinsmore’s sworn testimony. I posted about Capt. Dinsmore’s testimony in a post titled A Timline Emerges back in July. Here’s what I posted then:

As previously reported by NewsMax, the battalion S2 officer made a full and complete report based on his monitoring of the day’s events and the intelligence he and others had amassed then and previous days. As we wrote at the time, the PowerPoint after-action report he sent up the command ladder proved to all the higher officers that the incident warranted no further investigation.

I also mentioned these important details that should’ve been included in NewsHounds’s post:

  • Intelligence gathered by Marine S2 officers in advance of the events of Nov. 19th, 2005, revealed that it was known that an insurgent ambush was planned for the day.
  • Although exact details of the planned ambush were not known, some important details were revealed, most importantly, that some 20 insurgents would take part, and a white car would play an important role in the ambush.
  • The intelligence was made available to the officers and men of Kilo Company, including Sgt. Frank Wuterich who has been charged with, among other things, murdering the occupants of a white car that came on the scene following the IED explosion that killed one Marine and seriously wounded another. The evidence will show that Wuterich acted appropriately when he shot the passengers of the vehicle.
  • Although the media continues to report that 24 innocent civilians were killed that day, the S2’s testimony shows that eight of the dead, including four of the five occupants in the white car killed by Wuterich, were known insurgents and the dead civilians therefore numbered 16, not 24.
  • The insurgents whose communications were intercepted and which revealed the planned ambush were the same two men who were the sources of the fallacious and dishonest Time magazine story, which was the source of the accusations against the Marines.
  • As previously reported by NewsMax, the battalion S2 officer made a full and complete report based on his monitoring of the day’s events and the intelligence he and others had amassed then and previous days. As we wrote at the time, the PowerPoint after-action report he sent up the command ladder proved to all the higher officers that the incident warranted no further investigation. None!

Based on Capt. Dinsmore’s testimony, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to say that either Justin Sharratt or Frank Wuterich committed murder, the type of crime that Rep. Murtha has accused them of. In fact, Capt. Dinsmore’s testimony weakens the cases against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani and First Lt. Andrew Grayson for dereliction of duty. Here’s what USMC’s website says about the charges against Lt. Col. Chessani and 1st Lt. Grayson:

Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey R. Chessani

Charge: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 92

Specification 1
(Violation of a lawful order): wrongfully failed to accurately report and thoroughly investigate a possible, suspected, or alleged violation of the law of war by Marines under his command. (Maximum punishment dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 2 years). Referred to General Court Martial on October 19, 2007

Additional charge preferred October 19, 2007

Charge II: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 92

Specification: (Willful dereliction of duty): willfully failed to report, correct, update or supplement information about the incident in Haditha; willfully failed to accurately report to higher headquarters that the incident constituted a possible or suspected violation of the law of war; and willfully failed to direct a thorough investigation into the incident. (Maximum punishment: dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 6 months) Referred to General Court Martial on October 19, 2007

Charges dismissed October 19, 2007
Specification 2 (Dereliction): willfully failed to ensure that this possible, suspected, or alleged violation of the law of war was accurately reported to higher headquarters. (Maximum punishment: Dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 6 months)

Specification 3 (Dereliction): willfully failed to direct a thorough investigation into this possible, suspected, or alleged violation of the law of war. (Maximum punishment: Dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 6 months)

First Lieutenant Andrew A. Grayson

Charge I: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 92
(Maximum punishment: Dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 6 months)

Specification 1: willfully failed to ensure that this possible, suspected, or alleged violation of the law of war was accurately reported to higher headquarters.

Specification 2: willfully failed to ensure that a thorough investigation was initiated into this possible, suspected, or alleged violation of the law of war.

Charge II: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 107 (False Official Statement) (Maximum punishment: Dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and
confinement for 5 years)

Specification: did with intent to deceive, make a false official statement.

Charge III: Violation of the UCMJ, Article 134 (Obstructing Justice) (Maximum punishment: Dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement for 5 years)

Specification: did wrongfully endeavor to impede an investigation.

Frankly, the prosecution’s cases against Lt. Col. Chessani and 1st Lt. Grayson are crap. According to Capt. Dinsmore’s testimony, the incident in Haditha was turned into a PowerPoint presentation. It’s impossible for me to believe that Chessani and Grayson didn’t contribute to that report.

Not that News Hounds would’ve noticed though. They don’t mention anything about Lt. Grayson and mention Lt. Col. Chessani only once:

“Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani is charged with dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order based on the allegations that he failed to properly investigate shootings” and Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum is charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and aggravated assault.”

Then News Hounds says this:

Hannity used the segment as an opportunity to bash John Murtha who was reacting to information which had been disclosed by the US military. Hannity’s viewers are left with the impression that the Haditha matter has been closed with no culpability on the part of the military who, as we know from Vietnam, have been involved in atrocities because, as Murtha noted, they are under pressure.

Actually, Murtha wasn’t “reacting to information which had been disclosed by the US military.” Here’s what Murtha originally said when questioned about his sourcing:

Asked about his sources during a midday briefing on Iraq policy in the Capitol, Murtha confidently replied, “All the information I get, it comes from the commanders, it comes from people who know what they’re talking about.” Although Murtha said that he had not read any investigative reports by the military on the incident, he stressed, “It’s much worse than reported in Time magazine.”

A person could get intellectual whiplash reading Murtha’s quotes. First Murtha tells reporters that he got his information from “the commanders, it comes from people who know what they’re talking about.” Then he says that he hadn’t “read any investigative reports by the military on the incident.” If you think that’s dizzying, you’ll love this part:

Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, is being sued by one of the accused Marines for
libel. He had told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Gen. Michael Hagee had given him the information on which he based his charge that Marines killed innocent civilians.
But a spokesman for the Marine Corps said Hagee briefed Murtha on May 24 about Haditha. Murtha had made comments on the case as early as May 17. On May 17, for example, he said at a news conference, “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

At the time, Gen. Hagee was the Marine Corps Commandant, which is usually a Pentagon job. When Murtha was first asked about who briefed him, he said that “the commanders” had given him “all the information I get.” I’ve never served in the military but even I know that commanders isn’t a term used to describe Marine Corps commandants. I’m equally certain that Rep. Murtha would know that, too. After all, he served in the Marines and since it’s his job to talk with people inside the Pentagon.

It’s obvious that the Haditha Marines didn’t overreact. Based on Capt. Dinsmore’s testimony, they followed the ROE in dealing with a tense situation. Yes, civilians were killed. The truth is that insurgents use civilians as human shields, hoping that the soldiers thinks twice, which is all that an insurgent/terrorist needs in tight spots.

In conclusion, News Hounds spent little time doing the research needed to do the article justice. Instead, they focused on Sean Hannity and FNC. The guest poster (Priscilla) showed her political beliefs when she said that “Fox’s Chris Wallace can be partisan.” She obviously didn’t hear that Chris Wallace is a registered Democrat.

The sad part is that News Hounds gives John Murtha the benefit of the doubt even though he admittedly made the accusations without reading any reports with firsthand knowledge of the incident yet they all but accuse Justin Sharratt of playing partisan politics because Sean Hannity is the only bigtime journalist who’s interviewed him.

The worst part is that they don’t mention that all murder charges have been dropped.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

When the WSJ hits you, you’re hit. This morning, they hit John Murtha. That’s the good news. The bad news for America is that it doesn’t guarantee PA-12 voters retiring Murtha. Here’s what the WSJ said about Mr. Murtha’s ’employment record’:

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — If John Murtha were a businessman, he’d be the biggest employer in this town.

Then they dive into the ‘sausage-making’ part of his ‘business’:

The powerful U.S. congressman has used his clout on Capitol Hill to create thousands of jobs and steer billions of dollars in federal spending to help his hometown in western Pennsylvania recover from devastating floods and the flight of its steelmakers.

In the massive 2008 military-spending bill now before Congress, which could go to a House-Senate conference as soon as Thursday, Mr. Murtha has steered more taxpayer funds to his congressional district than any other member. The Democratic lawmaker is chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which will oversee more than $459 billion in military spending this year.

This isn’t a well kept secret. Everyone living in PA-12 knows this. I suspect that that’s why they keep voting for him. Things are changing in Mr. Murtha’s kingdom, though:

Most people outside of Western Pennsylvania may known Rep. John Murtha as the guy who first called for the troops to come home. But the Wall Street Journal presents a withering portrait of the congressman today as “old-fashioned political boss” who, as the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, has dubiously funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to his hard-luck hometown.

Last year, Democrats barked about Halliburton’s no-bid contracts. This year, they aren’t saying a word about the no-bid contracts being given out. Here’s an example of that corporate welfare, mixed with a little culture of corruption:

Johnstown’s good fortune has come at the expense of taxpayers everywhere else. Defense contractors have found that if they open an office here and hire the right lobbyist, they can get lucrative, no-bid contracts. Over the past decade, Concurrent Technologies Corp., a defense-research firm that employs 800 here, got hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to Rep. Murtha despite poor reviews by Pentagon auditors. The National Drug Intelligence Center, with 300 workers, got $509 million, though the White House has tried for years to shut it down as wasteful and unnecessary. Another beneficiary: MTS Technologies, run by a man who got his start some 40 years ago shining shoes at Mr. Murtha’s Johnstown Minute Car Wash.

Eventually, Johnstown’s economy won’t be the recipient of the corporate welfare payments that Murtha arranges. Eventually, they’ll need to get into real businesses that aren’t reliant on John Murtha’s ‘Corporate Welfare office’ in Washington, DC.

Nothing would make me happier than to see William Russell defeat Murtha:

First-time candidate William T. Russell, 45, a Republican, acknowledged that taking on a popular, 18-term congressman in the 2008 election will be “an uphill battle.” “But it’s one that must be fought,” Russell told the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown.

Indeed it must, Mr. Russell. Indeed it must. It’d be Christmas come early hearing John Murtha congratulating Mr. Russell’s victory in 2008.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

Last week, I wrote about the hatchet job Babette Joseph did to the Pennsylvania Open Records act. In that post, I said that she essentially admitted that Bill DeWeese had told her to gut the bill and pass it. Here’s what I wrote then:

Both the committee’s process and the content of the bill are outrageous. Committee Chair Babette Josephs, D-Philadelphia, pushed through amendment after amendment, most of which the members were seeing for the first time. Their cumulative effect was to exempt broad categories of state records from being open. When members of the committee pleaded with Rep. Josephs to slow down by either holding more hearings or not reporting the bill to the floor for a quick vote, she refused. Alarmingly, at one point she even said she could not do so because the Democratic leadership (Majority Leader H. William DeWeese, D-Waynesburg) didn’t want to.

Now the bill is the target of this editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

In Harrisburg today, House legislators are set to go back to work on a putrid open-records bill that has become a tribute to loopholes. Unless legislators make significant improvements to this turkey, they ought to kill it and focus on a better Senate version.
As it stands, the House measure would weaken Pennsylvania’s “right-to-know” law, already one of the weakest in the nation. For example, legislators’ e-mail on matters of public policy would be exempt.
Under current law, e-mail is not specifically protected from public scrutiny. “You should never make exemptions based on the delivery system,” said Barry Kauffman, head of the government watchdog group Common Cause-Pennsylvania. “It should be based on content.”

According to various articles I’ve read, Pennsylvania already has a bad record on transparency issues. It sounds like this bill would make a bad system worse. The Inquirer takes direct aim at Bill DeWeese with this graph:

How did a reasonable bill turn bad so fast? Word is that House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese (D., Greene), anxious about an attorney general’s investigation into legislative bonuses he doled out, wanted to quickly serve up a bill that he could tout as “reform.”

The hasty committee action wasn’t pretty, even for a sausage factory. The House State Government Committee had members voting on amendments they’d barely had time to read. The legislation was completely rewritten in about 48 hours.

Some 50 amendments were offered to this bill. The end result was so bad that Common Cause-PA revoked its endorsement of the legislation. As a result of the House State Government Committee’s gutting of the bill, I said that this was another RINO (Reform In Name Only). It’s obvious that the Inquirer have figured it out and that they aren’t going to take it anymore.

Rest assured that this bill won’t be adopted by a more reform-minded Senate. This is nothing more than an attempt to shift the spotlight away from DeWeese’s ethical lapses. That’s what happens when you’ve served in a position of power for 30+ years:

After leaving the Marines, DeWeese was elected to the Pennsylvania House in a 1976 special election and has served the 50th district (all of Greene and parts of Fayette and Washington Counties) since.

DeWeese’s ascent through the echelons of House Democratic leadership began when he was elected by his colleagues as Majority Whip in 1988. Upon the death of Speaker of the House James J. Manderino, DeWeese was elected House Majority Leader in January 1990, serving in that position until he was elected Speaker of the House for the 1993-94 term. In 1994, he lost the Speakership when Democrat Rep. Stish switched parties, giving the GOP the majority. He went on to serve as Minority Leader from 1994 until 2006.

Here’s another bit of information about DeWeese:

Following November 2006 elections, a tight race in Chester County gave a slim 102-101 majority to the Democrats, DeWeese became Democratic speaker-designate. Days before the General Assembly convened on January 2, 2007, Rep. Thomas Caltigirone (D) of Berks County announced he would not support DeWeese as speaker but would remain a Democrat. For the second time, DeWeese was denied the speakership by a member of his own party. DeWeese made a shocking move in the Hall of the House when he nominated Philadelphia County Republican Rep. Dennis O’Brien for the office of Speaker. O’Brien defeated fellow Northeast
Philadelphia Republican John M. Perzel in a 105-97 vote. Many political analysts speculate DeWeese’s leadership style led to the 1994 and 2007 party defections.

It isn’t a stretch to think that DeWeese is a bitter man, having been passed over twice by his own party for Speaker. It’s time that the voters in PA-50 retired him if he won’t retire on his own. He’s been in office far too long, which likely contributed to his corruption.

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This Congress made history when Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House. They also made history when Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to the House of Representatives. Not all of their firsts have been positive achievements, though. According to Minority Whip Roy Blunt’s statement, I’d call the 110th Congress an embarassment of historic proportions. Here’s the text of Rep. Blunt’s statement:

“Not since Jim Wright was the speaker of the House has Congress failed to send even one spending bill, not even the critically important veterans’ spending bill, to the president this late in the year. While a milestone in and of itself, it’s hardly an accomplishment to be proud of, especially since it didn’t have to be this way. The Senate has appointed conferees to every single spending measure it has passed. It’s anyone’s guess as to why the speaker hasn’t followed suit, but it seems more than apparent that politics might have something to do with it.

“It’s time for the majority to live up to the promise it made earlier this year and stop politicizing our troops. It can do that by finishing the veterans funding bill immediately, and then moving on to the other six that have secured the support of both chambers, but not the support, apparently, of Democratic leadership. All Republicans are asking is that Congress actually do its job. Is that too much to ask?”

NOTE: The House passed the veterans’ appropriations bill on June 15, 2007 by a margin of 409-2, with the Senate passing its own version and naming conferees on September 6th. Blunt joined Mr. Boehner and other Republican leaders in August in sending a letter to the speaker urging her to agree to a conference, appoint conferees, and reconcile a final bill. She has not yet complied.

This afternoon, I called into the Final Word while they talked about Jim Oberstar not helping getting the emergency appropriation bill passed and signed for rebuilding the I-35 Bridge. I said that we’d all heard the Democrats “6 for ’06” campaign slogan but little did we think that that’s all that they’d accomplish this year.

I’ve called them the “Congress That Wouldn’t Govern“. Rep. Blunt’s statement re-inforces that opinion. It’s long past time to get these spending bills finished. While I’ll readily admit that it isn’t common to get all thirteen bills done in time, it’s unheard of to see Congress not pass a single bill for the president to sign.

Mr. Blunt’s statement says that Ms. Pelosi hasn’t appointed conferees to reconcile the House and Senate version of the veterans’ appropriation bill. I suspect that they’re waiting on that so they can lard it up with special spending requests. That’s despicable on the Democrats’ behalf. They should be called on it. Democrats should especially be exposed when they say that they support the troops. If they supported the troops, they would’ve gotten this bill passed months ago.

Under Ms. Pelosi’s leadership, the House hasn’t gotten much of anything done. Based on a recent Field Poll, people have noticed:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s own party is turning on her, apparently because of a perception among California Democrats that she has not done enough to shake up the status quo in Washington, D.C., according to a Field Poll released Friday.

Congress overall is doing even worse with California voters, with an approval rating sagging to 30 percent or below for only the seventh time in the past 15 years, the poll of 1,201 registered voters found. Both Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat who became speaker this year, and Congress as a whole have fallen short of voter expectations since taking over both houses, poll director Mark DiCamillo said.

“I think the reason for her decline and the low ratings Congress is getting is that voters here are not seeing any change,” DiCamillo said.

The chickens are coming home to roost on Ms. Pelosi. She was stuck in a Catch-22 situation. To win the majority, Democrats had to be seen as change agents so that’s the campaign strategy they adopted. Now that they’ve won the majority, they’re being exposed as a status quo congress when people are demanding real change.

Then-Speaker Hastert told me at a Bachmann fundraiser in July, 2006 that Democrats weren’t change agents considering 25-term John Dingell would be one chairman, 22-term incumbent Charlie Rangel chairing the House Ways and Means committee, among others. I told him that he was exactly right about that. Here’s additional proof that he’s right:

For Pelosi, it was the first time the poll showed more people disapproving than approving of her performance, 40 percent to 35 percent, with 25 percent having no opinion.

Other polls since 2003 have shown larger numbers of voters with no opinion, but Pelosi always won more approval than disapproval. As recently as March, California Democrats approved of Pelosi by a 5-to-1 ratio, DiCamillo said. Now it’s less than 2-to-1. Nonpartisan voters also have soured on her.

I’d be shocked if Ms. Pelosi wasn’t re-elected but the fact that her approval rating is this bad tells you that she’s probably having to think about becoming a one-term Speaker. The poll also found that people had a lower approval rating of Republicans than Democrats but that’s to be expected in California.

I won’t predict that Republicans will reclaim the majority in the House in 2008 but I’m not ruling it out, either. What I’m willing to predict is that this will be a strong anti-incumbent, anti-corruption year in the US House. That doesn’t bode well structurally for Democrats.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

According to this NY Times article, Steny Hoyer announced that the House will return to a 4 day work week next year:

The House majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, told fellow Democrats this week that the House would not be in session next year on Fridays, except in June for work on appropriations bills.

Explaining that decision to reporters, Mr. Hoyer said, “I do intend to have more time for members to work in their districts and to be close to their families.”

Minority Whip Roy Blunt quickly gave him a jab:

“Is this a reward for our accomplishments in 2007?” asked Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican whip.

Democrats campaigned that they’d work 5 days a week and get more done for the American people. Their record doesn’t indicate that they’ve gotten much done, though. This congress hasn’t gotten much of anything done. They’ve earned the title of The Congress that Wouldn’t Govern. President Bush hammered them on their thin list of accomplishments:

And on Friday, President Bush once again hammered Congressional Democrats, accusing them of failing to meet basic responsibilities like approving annual budget bills and confirming his nominee for attorney general, Michael B. Mukasey.

“This is not what Congressional leaders promised when they took control of Congress earlier this year,” Mr. Bush said. “Congress needs to keep their promise, to stop wasting time, and get essential work done on behalf of the American people.”

Congress fired back in this lame way:

The Democrats, by contrast, say that after 10 months of putting in longer days and weeks, they have made significant gains. They cited legislation, including an increase in the minimum wage and new ethics and lobbying rules, as well as in the nitty-gritty work of House committees, which they say has provided much-needed oversight of the Bush administration and will also set the stage for an ambitious agenda next year.

The ethics reforms they passed were RINOs: Reform In Name Only. Their ‘oversight hearings’ didn’t look into how to improve government’s performance. They looked for ways to embarass the Bush administration. They talk about “laying the groundwork for an ambitious agenda” in 2008 but they still haven’t passed a single appropriations bill. That’s proof of their ineptitude and their lack of prioritization skills.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

The more I dig into this corruption, the more upset I get. This article chronicles how bureaucrats at PHEAA think that they’ve achieved a major accomplishment. Here’s what PHEAA is touting as proof of their reform agenda:

Employee appreciation events at the state’s student financial aid agency have been suspended. Bonuses that were to go to mid-level managers were stopped. The executive compensation program that has about a dozen people making more than Gov. Ed Rendell’s $164,396 salary is under review.

It’s obvious that PHEAA hopes this satisfies the public. It won’t. In fact, people are already taking shots at it:

“I think it’s a cleverly worded response,” Wagner said of PHEAA’s letter. “It leads us to believe they are not fully committed to positive change, and…I’m more concerned that the culture still is one of a private agency rather than a state agency.”

One thing to always remember about bureaucrats is that they’re control freaks. They don’t like relinquishing power. They’d much rather accumulate power. I’d bet that they’re seething that Mr. Wagner is looking over their shoulders. I’ll bet that they want him out of their office ASAP.

Here’s a glimpse at their culture of corruption:

His audit report also found PHEAA had spent $108,000 on an employee ppreciation event at Hersheypark last spring (PHEAA contended employees actually paid for about $29,000 of that cost). Wagner’s report also urged the agency’s board not to simply add the bonuses into the salaries.

“It’s a public agency,” Wagner said. “The public agency should be making decisions sensitive to the public.”

What the hell was PHEAA thinking spending $110,000 on an “employee appreciation event”? Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and stipulate that PHEAA employees paid $30,000 of the $110,000. That’s still spending $80,000 on an event. That’s in addition to their spending millions on bonuses & salaries.

Theoretically, PHEAA works for We The People. Practically speaking, Pennsylvanians are working to support PHEAA’s lavish lifestyle. It’s indicative of an attitude that says “The public’s needs come second to my wants.” That type of corruption won’t be tolerated any longer. It ends RIGHT HERE. It ends RIGHT NOW.

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