Tag Archives: Joe Gandelman

Silvio, Silvio, Silvio…

Rachel Donadio at NYT:

A Milan judge on Tuesday ordered Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial in April on charges of prostitution and abuse of office, dealing the most serious blow to his leadership in the 17 years that he has dominated Italian politics.

In a brief statement the judge said the trial would start on April 6. Mr. Berlusconi faces charges that he paid for sex with an under-age nightclub dancer nicknamed Ruby Heart-Stealer, and abused his office to help release her from police custody when she was detained for theft. The scandal has dominated political debate in Italy for months.

Mr. Berlusconi denies wrongdoing and has said he has no intention of stepping down. But in an increasingly tense climate after large anti-Berlusconi demonstrations on Sunday, analysts said the judge’s ruling makes it nearly impossible for the prime minister to govern and all but guarantees early national elections.

“The situation is more political than judicial now,” said Stefano Folli, a political columnist for the financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore. He predicted that in the short term Mr. Berlusconi would hold on, but “in the middle-term it’s an unsustainable situation.”

Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice

J.H. at Newsbook at The Economist:

EARLIER today a judge in Milan, Cristina Di Censo, indicted Italy’s prime minister, Silvio  Berlusconi, on charges relating to his alleged use of prostitutes. She said he should be tried for paying an underage prostitute and then attempting to cover up the alleged offence by taking advantage of his official position, which is itself an offence in Italy.

But Ms Di Censo did more than just indict Mr Berlusconi. She accepted, in full, arguments put forward by the prosecution that have potentially devastating implications for Mr Berlusconi (who denies any wrongdoing). First, she agreed with them that, because of “the obviousness of the evidence” they had gathered against him, he should be put on trial without a preliminary hearing. The full trial is due to begin on April 6th, and by a twist of fate (or, as Mr Berlusconi’s followers will no doubt contend, malevolent design) all three judges at the trial will be women.

That development seemed particularly resonant against a background of protests by Italian women against Mr Berlusconi and the entrenched machismo his female critics see him as representing. On Sunday, several hundreds of thousands took to piazzas around Italy to demonstrate “for a country that respects women”.

Their protest was the latest challenge to a prime minister whose personal popularity has fallen significantly since the scandal broke last October. Mr Berlusconi also faces daily problems attempting to get legislation through parliament following a walk-out by some of his followers last year.

The Jawa Report:

The legal age of consent in Italy is, holy cow, 14. But it is unlawful to engage in prostitution until the age of 18. Ms. Ruby, her stage name, was 17 when she let the PM boink her.

Berlusconi has said, “I didn’t pay her for the sex”. Which is a round about way of saying, “Yeah I hit that.”

Rick Moran:

Italian feminists are naturally up in arms.

On Sunday thousands took to the streets in Italian cities and worldwide in coordinated demonstrations that organizers said were aimed at restoring the dignity of Italian women amid the latest sex scandal and after years in which Mr. Berlusconi has routinely appointed television showgirls to political office.

No misogyny there. And how about Berlusconi’s lawyer’s take?

Noting that Mr. Berlusconi would be tried before a panel of three women judges, he said: “Great. Women are always appreciated, sometimes even agreeable,” the center-left daily La Repubblica reported.

Makes me wish I understood Italian so I could follow every twist and turn being reported in the Italian media.

Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic:

Despite the scandals, the angry women, and the splitting of his political coalition, Berlusconi has managed to hold onto power. Why? The Guardian’s Alexander Chancellor says it’s because he’s a master salesman. “When he was building his media empire,” Chancellor says, he demanded his sales team have “the sun in their pockets”–they had to be sunny, smiling, non-smoking, mustache-free. The rules made Berlusconi billions. And now, despite the bad headlines, “Berlusconi still has the sun in his pocket. Addressing political rallies, he always looks hopeful, confident, and in charge. … He may have fallen from grace among many women and Catholics, but most men, apart from those of the left, seem still to like him well enough. In Britain he would probably be resented for his wealth alone, but in Italy it works in his favour.”

Libby Copeland at The XX Factor:

Berlusconi is, after all, a guy who once called Rosy Bindi, the middle-aged woman who heads the opposition Democratic party, “increasingly more beautiful than you are intelligent.” Her response was to tell him “I am not one of the women at your disposal,” which prompted an “I’m not at your disposal” campaign in support of her. (Bindi’s rejoinder may have sounded more pithy in the original Italian.) Like that exchange, the insults in the so-called Rubygate scandal are fascinating for their degree of bile, if a little stilted in the translation.

A few days ago, before Berlusconi was indicted for allegedly hiring an underage prostitute, more than 100,000 people, mostly women, came out across the country to protest his dalliances with young women. (Not to mention his penchant for institutionalizing sexism by, among other things, putting skimpily clad showgirls on the networks he owns.) This prompted Berlusconi’s education minister, herself a woman, to label the protestors “the usual snob heroines of the left.” By American standards this is a fairly stunning thing for a high-ranking politician to say. Not to mention a great band name.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime, Foreign Affairs

Open The Hatch!

Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic with the round-up

Josh Gerstein at Politico:

A long-running federal investigation has found that White House political aides to President George W. Bush engaged in widespread violations of a federal law which limits partisan political activity by government employees during the 2006 midterm elections.

A 118-page report issued Monday by the little-known Office of Special Counsel cites numerous violations of the Hatch Act by the Bush-era White House Office of Political Affairs. The report concludes that federal taxpayers footed the bill for improper activities that were intended to advance Republican political candidates.

“The entire [Office of Political Affairs] staff was enlisted in pursuit of Republican success at the polls and many OPA employees believed that effort was part of their official job duties,” the report concludes. “Based on the extent of the activities described below, OSC concludes that the political activities of OPA employees were not incidental to their official functions, and thus U.S. Treasury funds were unlawfully used to finance efforts to pursue Republican victories at the polls in 2006.”

Those efforts, according to the report, included assigning staffers to track “the amount of money raised at fundraisers held by Republican candidates and national, state and local Republican groups.”

Citing a “a systematic misuse of federal resources,” the report also points to Bush administration cabinet members who traveled to White House-targeted Congressional districts in what was called the “final push.” The inquiry found that although many of the trips were primarily political, they had been designated as official business, and the expenses were paid by the government.

Steve Benen:

There were, for example, several dozen mandatory briefings for federal employees — during work hours and in federal office buildings — in which White House officials instructed public employees on how they could help Republican campaign efforts. Bushies later described the briefings as “informational discussions,” but all available evidence suggests that’s a lie.

There were also the extensive travel expenses. In order to give the impression that vulnerable Republican lawmakers were important and powerful, the Bush White House arranged for cabinet secretaries to visit key campaign battlegrounds to give GOP candidates a public-relations boost. The law prohibits officials from using our money this way, and taxpayers were never reimbursed. When asked, Bushies said the trips were official government business. Like the rest of the defense, this wasn’t true, either.

And in case that wasn’t quite enough, Republican National Committee officials literally just moved their operations into the White House, to coordinate campaign efforts. This is illegal, too.

All of the transgressions were coordinated by the Bush/Cheney Office of Political Affairs, which was overseen by Karl Rove, and which is prohibited from using public funds for partisan political purposes.

In the Bush era, Rove’s operation seemed to do nothing but use our money for partisan political purposes.

If you’re wondering about the potential legal fallout of these revelations, the Office of Special Counsel, which released its report yesterday, said it no longer has any jurisdiction now that the Bush administration has left office. The Justice Department could conceivably pursue this, but it’s given no indication that it intends to do so.

The report comes just a few days after the Obama White House announced it would shutter its Office of Political Affairs altogether, so as to avoid any misuse of public funds.

Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) recent claim — he called President Obama’s team “one of the most corrupt administrations” in recent memory — is looking increasingly ridiculous all the time.

Emptywheel at Firedoglake:

As I said last decade, no one will be held accountable for the abuses described in the report. So forgive me for being underwhelmed by the release of the report that does no more than catalog what we already knew.

The report shows that under Bush, agency heads required agency political appointees  to attend briefings at which they’d get an overview (40-60% of the content) of the Republican prospects for the next election.It described how these briefings explained the importance of the Republican 72-hour plan to get out turnout. And it described how at least some agencies tracked the participation of employees in GOTV activities.

One Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff at the Peace Corps testified that she maintained a spreadsheet showing the agency’s political appointees and when and where they were deploying to be campaign volunteers. The witness explained that OPA wanted to know the level of participation by political appointees as a group, and that she believed OPA expected all appointees to volunteer. She also understood that supervisors were expected to permit political appointees to take leave so they could “go off and do 72-hour campaigns.”

The most interesting finding of the report–though again, we knew this–is that the Office of Public Affairs became a mere extension of the RNC leading up to the 2006 election.

Specifically, OSC’s investigation revealed that OPA was essentially an extension of the RNC in the White House. Thus, OPA:

  • Worked with the RNC to develop a “target list” consisting of those Republican candidates involved in close races.
  • Encouraged high-level agency political appointees to attend events with targeted Republican candidates in order to attract positive media attention to their campaigns, a practice called “asset deployment.”
  • Utilized the services of several RNC Desk Coordinators – who worked inside the White House – to help coordinate high-level political appointees’ travel to both political and official events with Republican candidates.
  • Kept track of Republican candidates’ fundraising efforts as well as high-level agency political appointees’ attendance at events with targeted candidates.
  • Encouraged political appointees, on behalf of the RNC, to participate in 72-hour deployment efforts.

As explained below, OSC has concluded that all of these activities constituted “political activity” because they were directed at the electoral success of Republican candidates and the Republican Party as a whole. These activities took place in federal buildings and during normal business hours in violation of the Hatch Act. And although the OPA Director and Deputy Director, at whose direction these activities occurred, were exempt from the Hatch Act’s prohibition against engaging in political activity while on duty or in a federal workplace, the regulations require that the costs associated with the political activity of exempt employees be reimbursed to the U.S. Treasury when the activity is more than incidental. Here, the entire OPA staff was enlisted in pursuit of Republican success at the polls and many OPA employees believed that effort was part of their official job duties. Based on the extent of the activities described below, OSC concludes that the political activities of OPA employees were not incidental to their official functions, and thus U.S. Treasury funds were unlawfully used to finance efforts to pursue Republican victories at the polls in 2006.[my emphasis]

In short, taxpayers paid for a big chunk of the Republican 2006 campaign.

Hey! That was the campaign where we took back both houses and Rove’s math was proven to be faulty, right? Suckers!!

Doug Mataconis:

Even if there aren’t criminal prosecutions, it would seem clear that the RNC, the NRCC, the NRSC, or the individual campaigns should reimburse the Federal Government for the costs the taxpayers paid that they shouldn’t have.

Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:

Where will this story go? It’s uncertain.

GOPers will likely not mention it or find a way to try and downplay or discredit it. Some Democrats may not press it too aggressively since it does refer to an administration out of power and some Dems may have aspirations to cut the same corners in the future.

On the other hand, there could be some big surprise and it could lead to some repercussions or reforms.

Wonkette:

American taxpayers (China) paid for Bush administration officials to conduct political campaign activities for the 2006 midterm elections, which violated federal law and is information that, perhaps, we could have used somewhat earlier than a half decade after the fact. This is not surprising, nor is it surprising Karl Rove directed this stuff. What’s really awful is the sheer incompetence of the federal officials using these taxpayer funds, seeing as the 2006 midterms were a total blowout for the GOP. If you’re going to spend our money on elections, at least win some of them. So, are any of these Bush people going to be prosecuted for breaking the law? LOL.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime, Political Figures

We Won’t Have Tony To Kick Around Anymore

Jad Mouawad and Clifford Krauss at NYT:

BP’s board is expected on Monday to name an American, Robert Dudley, as its chief executive, replacing Tony Hayward, whose repeated stumbles during the company’s three-month oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico alienated federal and state officials as well as residents of the Gulf Coast.

The planned appointment of an American to run the London-based company, which was confirmed by a person close to BP’s board, would underscore how vital the United States has become to BP. About one-third of the company’s oil and gas wells, refineries and other business interests are in the United States, and 40 percent of its shareholders are Americans.

The move would also be a recognition by the board that even though the oil has stopped spewing into the gulf, dealing with the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon accident — from tens of billions of dollars in claims to possible criminal charges and new regulations on offshore drilling — is likely to dominate the company’s agenda for years.

Bryan Walsh at Time:

When Tony Hayward became CEO of BP in 2007, replacing a disgraced Lord John Browne, he was taking over a company in turmoil. BP was still recovering from a 2005 fire at its Texas City refinery that killed 15 people—one of the worst industrial accidents in recent memory, and a result of Browne putting profits over safety. Hayward—a skilled geologist and dedicated BP lifer—was meant to be a practical antidote to the flashy, globe-trotting Browne, a professional executive who promised to consolidate the company’s sprawling multinational operations. Most of all, Hayward would change BP’s careless corporate culture; he pledged in an early speech to focus “like a laser” on safety.

It was a line that, like much else, Hayward would come to regret. The Deepwater Horizon accident showed that there was still something deeply wrong with BP, and Hayward’s tone-deaf performance during the early days of the oil spill only made things worse. By mid-June Hayward had stepped back from the oil spill, ceding day-to-day control of the response to the American BP executive Bob Dudley. Now it seems Hayward is gone for good. According to a senior U.S. official speaking to the Associated Press early Sunday afternoon, Hayward will be replaced as BP’s CEO, possibly as early as Monday when the company’s board meets in London.

Though BP was officially denying the rumors, Hayward’s departure has long been considered of when, not if. Since the spill began on April 20, Hayward has been a gaffe machine.

Christopher Helman at Forbes:

The timing of this move is significant for two reasons. First, it coincides with the Tuesday release of BP’s sure-to-be-disastrous second-quarter results. Second, and more importantly, it indicates that BP believes the blowout at the Macondo well has been stopped, that the cap in place now will continue to hold back the gusher until the relief wells can kill it for good.

Image is everything, and the image that BP needs to present is one of a heroic Dudley Do-Right arriving on the scene to rescue Nell from the clutches of Snidely Whiplash. Tall, blondish Robert Dudley even looks kind of like his namesake hero from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, though with none of the bombast. No matter that Dudley has been with BP for a decade, having come over in the 1998 acquisition of Amoco. As we wrote in this piece when he assumed responsibility for oil spill oversight a month ago, Dudley has proven his managerial toughness over the years (especially in tangles with the Russian government when he was head of TNK-BP). And vitally, Americans will find another American a more trustworthy oil spill cleaner than they would another Brit.

Jim White at Firedoglake:

Yes, the twit who famously told us that this pesky spill had been such a nuisance that he wanted his life back is about to get just that.

And what a life it will be. Despite being at the helm as the company’s negligence unleashed the worst oil spill in US history and the subsequent loss of almost half the company’s value, Hayward will still be rich beyond the wildest dreams of almost anyone.

CNN gives us the details on Hayward’s likely exit package and current compensation. First, CNN informs us that Hayward won’t get a huge, American-style Golden Parachute. I don’t know about you, but I certainly would settle for the chrome bungee jump or whatever this is that Hayward is getting:

“He will be lucky to get a single year’s salary,” said Paul Hodgson, a senior researcher at The Corporate Library, a governance group. “And even that could be mitigated in certain circumstances.”

His compensation package — including salary and bonuses — was worth 3.158 million British pounds ($4.87 million), according to the company’s 2009 annual report. He’s also due an annual pension of 584,000 pounds ($901,000).

Additionally, he held more than 535,000 shares in the company as of December 31, which would currently be worth about 212 millon pounds (about $327 million).

That’s right, Hayward will be “lucky” to get an extra lump of almost $5 million to go away, while pulling in a pension of almost a million dollars a year on top of his stock worth $327 million.

Poor thing, I sure hope he doesn’t feel insulted by that paltry package.

If Hayward’s exit package, pension and stock ownership are indeed as reported by CNN, I’d like to nominate his life as the ultimate definition of moral hazard. He will have destroyed the Gulf of Mexico, made billions of dollars worth of stock held around the world go poof and still will walk away with riches beyond imagination. If he is to suffer nothing more uncomfortable than the “humiliation” of losing his job, then there simply is no incentive for other CEO’s to act responsibly in the future.

Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:

TV and other stand-up comedians had a ball making fun of a CEO could not keep a lid on his enjoyment of his “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” lifestyle for even the comparatively fleeting few moments of his life required to do press briefings and who could not put off avoid being photographed in settings that underscored the stark contrast between wealthy him and those who face losing their livelihoods in the Gulf. To wit:

“BP CEO Tony Hayward said recently, ‘No one wants this thing over more than I do. I’d like my life back.’ Tony, I’m so sorry you had your summer disrupted. I’d buy you a drink, but you’d probably spill that too … and make me clean it up.” –Craig Ferguson

“This Tony Haywire guy, whatever his name is, he told the BBC on Sunday that he believes the new oil cap that they’ve installed will eventually capture the vast majority of oil spewing from the well. You know, if they could capture half the BS spewing from Tony Hayward, people would be thrilled.” —Jay Leno

“BP CEO Tony Hayward said he would just like to get his life back. He wants to get his life back. You know, I say give him life plus 20.” —Jay Leno

…..”Obama’s not the only one on the hot seat right now. The CEO of BP is taking a lot of flak. His name is Tony Hayward. Today, President Obama had a meeting with Hayward at the White House. It got off to the wrong start. Hayward arrived in a Hummer limo powered by baby seals.” –Craig Ferguson

A Tony Hayward doll was even marketed in the U.S.:

Modelled on BP oil spill hate figure Tony Hayward, it’s the toy no kid wants – Inaction Man.

The 12-inch doll depicts the gaffe-prone boss as jobless with a placard reading: BP Executive Needs Work.

Made by American firm Hero Builders, it sells for £22.75 and describes Hayward’s qualities as “whiny little b*tch”, and an “all around w*****”.

Toy company boss Emil Vicale said: “We don’t expect to sell any. That’s how reviled he is.”

The doll – which does absolutely nothing – is the latest insult to Hayward, 53.

Meanwhile, BP doesn’t seem to want to let go of its image as a company that isn’t above board but will say what it thinks it needs to say in a given moment – even if everyone thinks or knows it’s just saying what it thinks it needs to say:

BP Sunday refused to confirm reports that its embattled chief executive Tony Hayward is on the verge of leaving the oil giant.

“Tony Hayward remains our chief executive and has the full support of the board and senior management,” company spokesman Mark Salt told CNN.

So expect the Tony Hayward spirit to linger on at BP long after Tony Hayward has left the leaking oil well.

Leave a comment

Filed under Energy, Environment

One Is The Loneliest Number

Josh Gerstein at Politico:

Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 13-6 vote Tuesday, with only Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) crossing party lines to vote in favor of the nominee.

Before the vote, however, Republicans and a few Democrats criticized Kagan for a lack of candor during her confirmation hearings earlier this month — despite a 1995 article she wrote calling the process vacuous. But Graham said his support for Kagan is a byproduct of his view that “the last election had consequences” and that senators ought to defer to President Barack Obama’s prerogative to pick judges in most circumstances.

“There’s plenty of reasons for conservatives to vote no, plenty of good reasons, but I also think there’s a good reason for conservatives to vote yes, and that’s provided in the Constitution,” Graham said of Kagan’s nomination. “I understood we lost; President Obama won. And I’ve got a lot of opportunity to disagree with him. But the Constitution, in my view, puts a responsibility on me, a senator, not to replace my judgment for his.”

Obama, in a written statement, applauded the committee’s “bipartisan affirmation” of Kagan, his solicitor general. He called her “one of this country’s leading legal minds” who would be “a fair and impartial Supreme Court justice” who understands that the law affects everyone.

Chris Cillizza at WaPo:

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham‘s (R) announcement that he will vote in favor of Elena Kagan‘s nomination to the Supreme Court is likely to further incite conservatives already unhappy with him and, according to close observers of the state’s politics, ensures he will face a serious primary challenge in 2014.

“I think there’s a good reason for a conservative to vote yes,” Graham said this morning.

Graham’s apostasy on Kagan comes after other high profile breaks with conservatives in his state (and nationally) over climate change and immigration reform and will likely make him a central target of those tea party Republicans who helped oust Utah Sen. Bob Bennett in his bid for renomination earlier this year.

“It’s no longer a question of ‘if’ but ‘who’ and ‘how many’,” said one South Carolina Republican operative about a Graham primary challenge. The source added that Graham’s approach on high profile issues of late is “putting Lindsey’s friends and supporters in a really tough place.”

Steve Benen:

There wasn’t any doubt that the Senate Judiciary Committee would approve Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court today. There was interest, however, in how the vote would go.

The committee endorsed Kagan on a 13-to-6 vote, with every Democrat supporting the nominee. The surprise came when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), joined with the majority.

The South Carolina conservative delivered a fairly lengthy speech on the nomination, and conceded he could think of “100 reasons” to oppose Kagan. But he would back her anyway, because of her qualifications and character. “At the end of the day, after the hearing, it was not a hard decision for me to make,” Graham explained.

As for what’s next for Kagan, her nomination now heads to the Senate floor, where final confirmation is expected before members break for their summer recess.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

Obama got to the heart of the matter when he added that Kagan’s work as a Justice would reflect that she “understands how decisions made by the Court affect the lives of everyday Americans.” This is Obama’s way of saying that Kagan’s decisions will be just as expansively leftist as Obama’s vision of what’s good for “everyday Americans.”

I’m pretty sure Obama is right. And, given Kagan’s sense of humor, that seems to be just fine with Lindsey Graham, who once again earned his title, “the Arlen Specter of the South.”

Graham is up for re-election in 2014. By then Elena Kagan (and for that matter Sonia Sotomayor) will have a substantial record through which South Carolina Republicans can assess the judgment of their senior Senator, assuming he runs for re-election. In the meantime, let’s hope that Kagan includes some good one-liners in her left-wing opinions.

But perhaps Graham is right in predicting that this whole Tea Party thing will blow over. Perhaps in 2014 South Carolina will return Graham to Washington because he too is funny and the Washington Post likes him.

Allah Pundit:

WaPo’s already gaming out how many primary challengers Graham will face in 2014; among the possibilities is … Mark Sanford. A quote from one of Graham’s consultants: “He’s a thinking person’s conservative. I expect him to do well among voters with IQ’s in triple digits.” Thinking strategically, his vote here is potentially useful to Republicans down the line if/when another vacancy opens on the Court and The One decides to go for broke by appointing a lefty bomb-thrower. Because Graham’s now positioned himself as the principled moderate, willing to vote for both Kagan and Sotomayor in the name of deference to the president, a no vote on some future nominee would be a devastating judgment that he/she really is way out of the mainstream. Kagan’s not going to be filibustered — but the next one might be, especially if Grahamnesty signals to other moderates that it’s okay to do so by opposing him/her, so maybe he’s just keeping his powder dry. And, er, maybe Dick Durbin’s really had a change of heart. Exit question via Pat Leahy: Why does the GOP hate women?

Michael O’Brien at The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he planned a vote on Elena Kagan’s appointment to the Supreme Court before the August recess.

Reid said he planned to bring Kagan’s nomination up for a vote “before we leave for August recess.”

Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:

It was originally said by pundits that Kagan would sail through in what they predicted would be yawningly boring hearings with little opposition even from GOPers. Although hearings were relatively low-key, they weren’t boring.

And political skirmishes in the 21st century aren’t political skirmishes without the entry of over the top talk show political culture rhetoric.

In Kagan’s case, it recently came in the assertion of commentor Eric Ericson’s assertion that “Senators would be committing a high act of confirmation treason if they allow this nominee to go on the court without attempting to filibuster her nomination.”

As melodramatic and demonizing as some Supreme Court nominations have been in recent decades, no credible partisan has suggested that not filbustering a nominee named by another party would be an act of treason, no matter how it is argued or described. So now votes come down to treason (not just being RINOs or DINOs) for those who might dare not listen to talk show hosts and commentors?

But, then again, this is 2010 where the gut and the desire for readership or audience often trump the apparently atrophying logical part of the brain.

Leave a comment

Filed under Political Figures, Supreme Court

Old School Technology Meets New School Technology

Pia Ringheim Jensen at The Daily Beast:

On June 17, at 5 p.m., the parking lot outside the Draper, Utah, prison building where Ronnie Lee Gardner is scheduled to be executed by firing squad was already full of media trucks. The only people who could get close to the building were approved members of the media, including a reporter from The Daily Beast. No protesters were in evidence.

Inside a large media room, TV cameras were set up and journalists took their seats, positioning laptops on the desks in front of them and watching TV news for updates on the execution that’s still planned for shortly after midnight. It will be the first execution performed by firing squad in this new permanent chamber, 20 feet by 24 feet and fitted with curtains to cover the bulletproof windows between the chamber and the adjacent witness rooms.

Gardner has the right to invite up to five witnesses, but it wasn’t known if he had asked for any.

We were told that the prisoner seemed calm and relaxed. He had been sleeping, reading Divine Justice and watching a movie, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He had been fasting since his last meal yesterday. He has the right to visit with clergy, but had not requested any.

Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:

As ABC News reports, witnesses gave accounts of their reaction to it that were not always quite the same. Here are a few press reports.

The Salt Lake Tribune:

Five shots.

Four bullets.

With two loud bangs in quick succession, Ronnie Lee Gardner’s quarter century on Utah’s death row ended.

At 17 minutes past midnight Friday, Utah Department of Corrections officials confirmed the death of a man whose life was defined by sex abuse, drug addiction, poverty, criminality and murder.

But in the final hours of his life, friends and family members said, Gardner was at peace.

And in his final minutes, witnesses said, the calm, condemned man exchanged private words with Utah’s prison chief before being strapped to the execution chair and asked if he had any final words.

“I do not. No,” he said.

Ahood was pulled over his head. An executioner counted back from five. The shots rang out.

If the man known as one of Utah’s most notorious criminals was a monster, family members said, it was only as a result of his abusive upbringing. And Gardner’s appellate attorneys long had argued that if his jurors had known more about his childhood, they would have sentenced him to life in prison, instead of death.

The paper also had this eyewitness account from Nate Carlisle:

Ronnie Lee Gardner’s head, covered by a black hood, remained upright.

His body sat straight in the chair to which it was strapped.

As my eyes traveled down Gardner’s left arm, past his dark blue jumpsuit, I saw his pale white skin appear below his elbow. Half a faded blue tattoo, some kind of diamond shape, stuck out from the restraint around his wrist.

At the bottom of his restraint, I focused on his fist. Gardner died much the way he lived — with a clenched fist.

Yes, this was my first time witnessing an execution. I have been amazed at how many people asked me that.

Firing four bullets into a man’s chest is, by definition, violent. If it can also be clinical and sterile, then that also happened in this execution.

AND further down, after the hood is placed over Gardner’s head:

I watched Gardner. As the seconds passed, I grew anxious. I pivoted my eyes away from Gardner toward the slits.

… I heard “boom boom.” The sounds were as close together as you could spew them from your mouth.

My eyes darted back to Gardner and to his chest. The target, perfect just a second earlier, had three holes. The largest hole was in the top half of the circle and toward Gardner’s left side. It may have been where two bullets entered Gardner.

Below that hole, still inside the circle, was a smaller hole. Outside the circle, in the bottom right of the target, was a third hole. Each hole had a black outline. Utah Department of Corrections Director Tom Patterson would say later the target was fastened to the jump suit by Velcro and that may account for the black outline.

….I saw Gardner move his left arm. He pushed it forward about 2 inches against the restraints. In that same motion, he closed his hand and made a fist.

Then it happened in reverse. Gardner’s hand loosened, his arm bent at the elbow, straightened again and the fist returned. At the time, I interpreted this as Gardner suffering — clenching his fist in an effort to fight the pain.

….The next movement I saw from Gardner came from beneath his hood. I could see the bottom of his throat and it rippled as though Gardner moved his jaw.

..I squinted my eyes, looking for blood. I saw none through the holes in Gardner’s chest. None spilled on the floor. The jump suit slightly darkened around his waist and it appeared that’s where blood was pooling. But I never saw a drop

.
When an official checked to see if Garnder was alive, Carlisle could get a glimpse of the prisoner’s face:”His mouth was agape. His face was even whiter than it was before the hood covered him.”

Brad Hirschfield at The Huffington Post:

Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed at approximately 12:05 AM at the Utah State Correctional Facility in Draper, Utah. And even more than other death penalty cases, this one stirred strong emotion because it was carried out by firing squad. At Mr. Gardner’s request, he was strapped to a chair and shot by a team of five executioners, four of whose rifles contained live ammunition.

While I’m opposed to the death penalty, once the citizens of a state have agreed to permit it, I am entirely supportive of implementing it by firing squad. In fact, as long as it is limited to cases in which the convicted felon elects that method, I think it’s actually a good way to go.

How can someone opposed to the death penalty make such a claim? While done with a heavy heart, it’s a matter of honesty and clarity about the brutality of taking another human being’s life, even if that person “deserves” it.

If citizens really long for the death of another human being, then let it be as messy and horrible as taking a life really is. And if doing so bothers us, perhaps we shouldn’t be executing the person at all!

Robin Wauters at Tech Crunch:

A sign of the times, although many may find it distasteful, or much worse: Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff used a mobile Twitter client to send out a tweet announcing the impending execution by firing squad of convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner.

As the BBC notes, quite a modern way to announce a very old-fashioned death.

In total, the AG sent out 3 tweets about the event from his iPhone only a couple of hours ago, the most recent one an all-too-familiar (on Twitter) self-promoting one.

1) A solemn day. Barring a stay by Sup Ct, & with my final nod, Utah will use most extreme power & execute a killer. Mourn his victims. Justice

2) I just gave the go ahead to Corrections Director to proceed with Gardner’s execution. May God grant him the mercy he denied his victims.

3) We will be streaming live my press conference as soon as I’m told Gardner is dead. Watch it at http://www.attorneygeneral.Utah.gov/live.html

James Joyner:

Rather in poor taste, no?

Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review:

Any time you are tempted to think, “Surely nobody would have the bad taste and lack of sense to do that?” remember that the answer is always no.

Radley Balko at Reason:

Old school justice meets social networking.

[…]

What, no Twitpics of the body?

Elizabeth Allen at Mashable:

Were these tweets really necessary? For the most part, the 140-character messages about death, devoid of any emotion, did not sit well with many Twitter users.

A Twitter user named diptychal tweeted: “@MarkShurtleff’s tweet will probably go down in history as the dumbest most disgusting use of Twitter ever.” Another user, named drhonk, simply tweeted: “What a way to announce someone’s execution … twitter .. geez.”

The incident raises an interesting question. Is Twitter really appropriate in every occasion, even one as serious as an execution? What do you think, should Mark Shurtleff have tweeted about it? Voice your opinion in the comments.

Shani O. Hilton at Ta-Nehisi Coates’ place:

I admit that part of my issue with this is that I think that capital punishment is generally indefensible. But more than that, tweeting about someone’s death—even the death of a convicted murderer—strikes me as callous and not fitting for the gravity of the situation. It would be different if, say, he had tweeted a link to a press release. But to send out a message about the end of someone’s life so cavalierly. It boggles.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan

1 Comment

Filed under Death Penalty, New Media

The Punch Seen Round The Internets

Max Read at Gawker:

If you’re a police officer, how do you handle an angry confrontation with a 17-year-old girl who you’ve stopped for jaywalking? One thing you maybe shouldn’t do is punch her in the head. Which is what one Seattle cop did.

On Monday, a police officer patrolling south Seattle caught a group of young women committing the serious offense of jaywalking. He asked them over to his patrol car, at which point they became “verbally antagonistic.” One girl tried to walk away, and the officer grabbed her to escort her back to his patrol car; the other girl then attempted to separate the office and the girl. So the officer punched her.

Sounds like a totally normal, everyday interaction with the police, right?

Radley Balko:

Both women are overreacting here. Obviously the cop is as well. Make up your own mind about whether the punch was warranted. I think you could make a case that by the time the punch was thrown, the cop justifiably felt he was losing control of the situation. (And hey, at least he didn’t use his Taser.) Seems to me that the mistake came earlier: This started as a jaywalking citation. Was it it really so important that the woman get a jaywalking fine that she needed to be chased down and thrown against the patrol car? Even if she was trying to avoid the fine, seems like at some point you realize what’s at stake here (a single incident of someone undermining your authority to get away with a petty crime), and just let it go.

Weasel Zippers:

Female teenager assaults police officer in the line of duty

Pays with her face.

Chick had it coming.

More here.

UPDATE: Thanks to JCM for this link to an uncut version of the vid.

Frank James at NPR:

Because the young woman who pushed the officer is African-American and the officer white, the case has taken on the obligatory racial element, with some blacks saying race was an issue.

Who knows? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. It could have just as easily been racial on her part as his.

What’s certain, however, is that it’s almost invariably a bad idea to lay one’s hands on a police officer. Nothing good can come from that.

Better to say, politely, “Yes, officer, you’re right. I was jaywalking. I’ll never, ever do it again.”

Yes, that’s called fibbing. But most reasonable people would probably agree that a small lie is better than having a police officer hit you with a hard right and then arrest you.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has plenty of details on the incident and the aftermath.

Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:

The problems here for Seattle’s police (no matter what emerges in the police’s investigations findings) are twofold.

One is that there have already been two major controversies in Seattle involving police and videos recently. One is over another incident involving police and a video — specifically a video that showed a 15-year-old African American girl being roughed up in a cell in November by a policeman who later pleaded not guilty to fourth-degree assault in March. The other, which broke last month, involved an April incident when a video showed a Seattle Police officer kicking a Latino man and vowing to beat “the Mexican piss” out of him. Both sparked lots of news stories online and You Tube videos.

Meanwhile, the latest in this case is that the Seattle Police now seem to be inching away from the initial suggestion put out in news reports that the force was justified:

Confronted by another incident caught on videotape, Seattle police have ordered a sweeping review into a jaywalking stop in which an officer punched a 17-year-old girl in the face after she shoved him.

Interim Police Chief John Diaz ordered the review of the department’s training procedures after a videotape of the incident was repeatedly broadcast on Seattle television stations and media websites.

On the video, Officer Ian P. Walsh is seen punching the girl in the face after she tries to intervene in the arrest of a 19-year-old friend near Franklin High School on Monday afternoon. Police arrested the girl, Angel L. Rosenthal, and her friend, Marilyn Ellen Levias, both of whom have criminal records.

The department’s response to the incident in Rainier Valley came as Mayor Mike McGinn is nearing a decision on a new permanent chief: either Diaz or East Palo Alto, Calif., Police Chief Ron Davis.

It also comes as the department is conducting a criminal investigation into the actions of two other officers who were caught on videotape April 17 kicking a prone Latino man, with one using ethnically inflammatory language.

Acting Deputy Chief Nick Metz, speaking at a hastily called news conference Tuesday morning, expressed concerns about Walsh’s conduct, saying the department was “withholding judgment” pending a separate internal investigation into the officer’s action by the department’s civilian-led Office of Professional Accountability.

His comments represented a stark reversal of the department’s preliminary statement Monday night, when a spokesman said Walsh had acted appropriately.

As we’ve increasingly seen in the political world, it’s now a reality that if there is a cellphone, videos capturing bad behavior or language will be out there for all to see — online within minutes, viewed by potentially millions and in many cases viewed unedited so viewers can make up their own minds on what they see.

For differing reasons people will see it differently. In the case of the Seattle police, the cumulative imagery of three controversies involving force will not help its image or attitudes towards it in parts of the city.

The other problem is the issue of how a video that at first glance seems clear in its meaning can actually seem clear in its meaning in two or three ways, depending on who is viewing it and what beliefs, perceptions, experiences and preferences or biases they bring to the table before they view it. This is being seen now in political videos that become controversial and in other videos. Perhaps the most famous instance is  the 1991 Rodney King case.

UPDATE: E.D. Kain at The League here, here and here

2 Comments

Filed under Crime

The Enemy Of My Enemy Of My Enemy Of My Enemy…

Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:

Has Saudia Arabia in effect now given Israel the green light to bomb Iran? A Times of London report suggests it has:

Saudi Arabia has conducted tests to stand down its air defences to enable Israeli jets to make a bombing raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Times can reveal.

In the week that the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran, defence sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran.

To ensure the Israeli bombers pass unmolested, Riyadh has carried out tests to make certain its own jets are not scrambled and missile defence systems not activated. Once the Israelis are through, the kingdom’s air defences will return to full alert.

“The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way,” said a US defence source in the area. “They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren’t scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department.”

Sources in Saudi Arabia say it is common knowledge within defence circles in the kingdom that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid. Despite the tension between the two governments, they share a mutual loathing of the regime in Tehran and a common fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “We all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing,” said one.

The four main targets for any raid on Iran would be the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom, the gas storage development at Isfahan and the heavy-water reactor at Arak. Secondary targets include the lightwater reactor at Bushehr, which could produce weapons-grade plutonium when complete.

How credible is this report? Very. The Times is a solid newspaper. And it’s no secret that Saudia Arabia has had a strained relationship with Iran for many years.

Allah Pundit:

This claim bubbles up from time to time — remember this iteration from last July, or this one from last September? — but the repetition doesn’t make it any less fun.

[…]

It’s Middle Eastern politics in microcosm. For all the Wahhabist invective towards al-Yahud, the Saudis are more afraid of being nuked by Iran in some insane Sunni/Shiite armaggedon than by Israel, and rightly so. So, just as the local Arab regimes demagogue Israeli nukes for show while worrying privately about Tehran, the Kingdom might lend the IAF some airspace and then lamely pretend afterwards that the incursion was unwanted. Question, though: Will anyone seriously believe their denial that they were involved? It probably won’t spare them some sort of Iranian reprisal, either overt or covert (via Hezbollah or a Quds Force operation inside S.A.), and it’s bound to draw the ire of the many Jew-hating fanatics in their clerical class. The only reason to deny, I assume, is to deprive Iran of a confession it could use to pressure other local Muslim regimes into isolating the Saudis as punishment — although even there, how likely it is that Sunni leaders will side with the great Shiite menace against Riyadh?

James Joyner:

A fascinating development.   With the notable exception of Chuck Wald, essentially every security analyst I’ve heard or read on the subject thinks that an aerial attack on Iran’s facilities would be counterproductive.  But, given no good options, Israel is likely to take one of the bad ones.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

Frankly, this is a more effective deterrent on the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions than anything Obama has done in eighteen months. And it proves how utterly false is Obama’s premise that progress on the ”peace process” is required to gain the Arab states’ co-operation on Iran. Imagine if we had spent the last 18 months rounding up support from the Arab states on a shared defense pact, demonstrating America’s full support of Israel and making clear that the military option is perfectly viable. Instead, we have a tenser Middle East, a withering U.S.-Israel alliance, and an emboldened Iran. It is the greatest foreign-policy miscalculation in memory.

DRJ at Patterico:

I hope this U.S. defense source wasn’t the Times‘ only source. I also hope that if Israel does conduct an airstrike against Iran, President Obama will side with the Saudis and the Israelis instead of Iran and its enablers. For one of the few times in my life, I’m not sure which side the American government would support.

But at least now we know the old saying is true: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Duraid Al Baik at Gulf News:

Gulf states will not support any military action against Iran despite being wary about its nuclear programme, analysts said on Saturday.

“Saudi Arabia will not cooperate with Israel or any other country to attack Iran. We have always advocated a peaceful solution to the Iran crisis,” Dr Abdul Aziz Hamad of King Saud University told  Gulf News.

Saudi and US defence officials were quoted in a report in The Times as saying that Riyadh will allow Israeli jets to use its airspace if Tel Aviv decides to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

“The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way,” the London-based newspaper said, quoting a US defence source.

No support

“They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren’t scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department,” the report said, quoting an unnamed Saudi official.

However, experts said although Gulf states continue to be concerned about Iran’s designs, they would not support any military action against the Islamic republic.

Riad Kahwaji, General Director of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said the “[Times] report, in my opinion, is part of the psychological warfare between Iran and the US, because there is no need for Saudi-Israeli cooperation to allow the Jewish state to attack Iran.”

EARLIER: Joe Biden, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran

Leave a comment

Filed under Foreign Affairs, Israel/Palestine