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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, apparently attempted to sell access to her former husband Prince Andrew, second son of Queen Elizabeth II. The attempt was caught on tape in a sting operation by British publication News of the World. Ferguson allegedly asked for a $40,000 up-front fee, followed by a $724,000 deposit into her bank account, according to Fox News. Unsurprisingly, the British public’s not too happy. The footage has even sparked some reaction in the U.S. There are a few willing to defend the scandal-prone duchess in the media, but the condemnations have generally been swift and fierce.
Unknown to the Prince, Fergie PROMISED to introduce us to him, CLAIMED he’d help fix lucrative deals and DEMANDED a cut of all profits.
Along the way she also INSISTED on one per cent commission on any deals we might strike due to her royal connections, and DEMANDED we wire the main £½million backhander into her private HSBC bank account.And though the world of princes and duchesses is a bit foreign to Americans, the implications are pretty clear. Imagine if Whitney Houston did this to Bobby Brown, but Bobby Brown’s mom was Nancy Reagan.
A comment on the News of the World site puts it like this: “Royals: lazy people, get a work!!!”
There are destroyed public images, and then there are destroyed public images — and now there is Great Britain’s Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson. Her name will now forever be associated with getting caught on tape in a tabloid sting operation where she was allegedly trying to sell access to her ex-husband Prince Andrew for $700,000, apparently seeking to make big bucks from her remaining links to Buckingham Palace, and putting some $40,000 into her bag before leaving the scene of her forever-destroyed reputation’s graphic demise. And apparently being tipsy when it all occurred.
Adding to the humiliation: she says herself in the video that the Prince himself is squeaky clean, suggesting more than ever that she viewed her association with Buckingham Palace as a kind of fallback lifetime lottery — except in this discreet lottery no one except her and the clients to whom she was peddling Buckingham Palace access knew she was about to win big. Now, as this story rapidly exploded in England and throughout the world via TV, print and the Internet, she has issued a statement saying she is “devastated” and “regretful” by the video.
It makes me sad. The Duchess, I know, was always over the top, a loud lively lass with a twinkle in her eye and an appalling taste in everything from men to clothes. But she was, undoubtedly, fun. She brought Diana down to earth, clowning about for the paparazzi at Klosters. She giggled at Buckingham Palace and showed too much leg at Clarendon House. Around her, Andrew beamed, Charles looked priggish, and the Queen looked like she was, for once, having a good time.
And when she fell, she fell so spectacularly, you kind of warmed to her. She was caught sucking a man’s toes. They were not Prince Andrew’s, and all hell broke loose. Fergie was banished from Royal circles, and even though she and her ex-husband stayed in touch, she was a pariah. This allowed her to date a long list of increasingly unappetising (but always wealthy) characters, which of course kept the tabloids buzzing around “the Duchess”. Her exploits grew more and more like a hysterical hen party that never led to marriage. Or, in her, case re-marriage.
But nothing could keep her down. She made good money as an ambassadress for Weight Watchers, she wrote a children’s book, and she took America by storm, gracing every TV sofa from Oprah’s to Jay Leno, and every party from Manhattan to Miami.
On this side of the Atlantic, they were less welcoming: they bitched about her going out on the town with her teenage daughters, and about her making a documentary about common people. Still, everyone had to admit, this Duchess bounced back. She seemed to have regained Prince Andrew’s love, and even the hard-hearted had to smile at the sight of the two ex-spouses chortling together over their daughters.
Fergie, it seemed, was flawed, but human, and you couldn’t help wish her well. But now, the cat has used up all her lives. The accusation of selling access to her (unwitting and innocent) ex is ugly, greedy stuff, which won’t play well at the Palace, or in ordinary homes. Sarah Ferguson, the jolly Royal, is no more. The desperate Duchess has taken her place, and she’s not a pretty sight.
Looking at the video of the newspaper sting that got her, it’s like looking at a museum piece, or a very clever installation by an artist – “The 1980s Sloane,” you might call it. Everything’s still in place, as if we are still in Sloane Square in c.1982 – the lunchtime bottle of wine (a £95 bottle of burgundy), the fags (Marlboro Lights, I do hope, though it’s hard to tell from the video), the swearing like a trooper. Even her food at Mosimann’s in Belgravia (a stone’s throw from Sloane Square) is pretty 80s – the pea soup (£12.50) followed by the lamb and vegetables (£30).
And, of course, the traditional Sloane stupidity has survived intact. Surely, every celeb in the land should now be familiar with the operational tactics of Mazher Mahmood, the News of the World’s resident fake sheikh and chief investigations editor.
I once interviewed her for the Telegraph in New York, where she was launching her own eponymous sandwich – the Duchess of York (grilled chicken breast on rye, lettuce, tomato, melted cheese and a horseradish-flavoured light mayo), manufactured by a company called French’s, who were paying her to promote the mayo.
I must say that Fergie was tremendously friendly – “Oh, call me Sarah” – and good jolly Sloane company. “That’s humungous,” she said – excellent Sloane word – as she was handed a two-inch thick Duchess of York to sample. She was also very unguarded – a quality that’s a great relief to a reporter in search of good quotes, but a disaster for a member of the Royal Family, particularly when combined with hunger for cash.
The woman is skint. And, like any desperate person, she will do almost anything to get her hands on some cash. Fergie has made it abundantly clear that if this means “using” Andrew she will not think twice.
It isn’t attractive – it’s not so different from selling your mother. But the question has to be asked: how has the Queen allowed the situation to deteriorate to this level? The duchess was always a loose cannon and needed looking after.
The amount of money apparently granted to Fergie on her divorce was abysmal; £15,000 a year is hardly a fortune for any divorcee with children to bring up. But when those children are granddaughters of the sovereign, such a piffling amount is asking for trouble. And now the Windsors have got it.
Fergie, by fair means or foul, needs money. She’s beyond caring what the royal family think of her. In the case of Prince Philip she’s always known. Years ago the duke described her as “having no point”. Her relationship with the Queen is more civilised: there will always be contact.
At approximately 9:30pm local time on March 26 a ROK Navy Pohang class, the Cheonan, corvette was patrolling off Baengnyeong Island when it was torn in half by an underwater explosion. The explosion killed 46 ROK sailors and a diver died during subsequent recovery operations.
Suspicion immediately focused on the rogue regime now ruling North Korea, the DPRK. Today that suspicion was borne out.
South Korea will formally blame North Korea on Thursday for launching a torpedo at one of its warships in March, causing an explosion that killed 46 sailors and heightened tensions in one of the world’s most perilous regions, U.S. and East Asian officials said.
South Korea concluded that North Korea was responsible for the attack after investigators from Australia, Britain, Sweden and the United States pieced together portions of the ship at the port of Pyeongtaek, 40 miles southwest of Seoul. The Cheonan sank on March 26 after an explosion rocked the 1,200-ton vessel as it sailed on the Yellow Sea off South Korea’s west coast.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because South Korea has yet to disclose the findings of the investigation, said subsequent analysis determined that the torpedo was identical to a North Korean torpedo that South Korea had obtained.
Will North Korea’s Kim Jong-il get away with murder? That’s a question Koreans, and many in the region, are asking a month and a half after a South Korean naval vessel was sunk, killing 46.
An investigation, assisted by U.S. naval intelligence, and other international partners, is still ongoing. Yet it’s all but certain that the Cheonan was torpedoed, an act of war. While North Korean motives (escalation for aid? Kim Jong-il consolidating his power base? rogue captain?) remain the subject of debate, the destruction is clear.
What to do? To read the press, the conventional wisdom is that South Korea would not dare retaliate, for fear of sparking a wider war and that any effort to take the issue to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions would meet China’s veto (Beijing just hosted Kim Jong-il on a state visit). Some see the most likely scenario as the status quo – public condemnation, Beijing continuing to enable Pyongyang with aid and Washington happy not to rock the boat. Watching the State Department spokesman dance around this issue, it’s pretty clear that Foggy Bottom wouldn’t be too bothered if the investigation was permanently “ongoing.”
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to put North Korea back on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
The request comes as South Korea briefed diplomats today on the findings of an investigation into the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, in which 46 South Korean sailors died. Reports said the investigation implicated North Korea in launching the torpedo that sank the vessel in March.
“As the recent sinking of the Republic of Korea warship Cheonan has demonstrated, North Korea is, in fact, intent on pursuing the opposite policy of ours, namely, undermining peace and increasing tensions in northeast Asia,” Ackerman wrote Clinton in a letter.
“The apparently unprovoked sneak attack on the Cheonan, by North Korea, and the murder of 46 Republic of Korea sailors sailing in home waters, is a clear potential causus belli, and unquestionably the most belligerent and provocative incident since the 1953 armistice was established,” he continued.
Ackerman, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, also said Pyongyang’s sales of ballistic missiles, artillery rockets and conventional arms to Hamas and Hezbollah warrant returning it to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The Bush administration removed North Korea from the list in 2008.
Former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts at reconciliation with the criminal regime in Pyongyang (the so-called Sunshine Policy), which provided North Korea with significant aid while getting almost nothing in return. The policy was abandoned in 2008 by President Lee Myung-bak, having done nothing to alleviate the squalid conditions suffered by the hostages of the Juche dictatorship. Now, how will President Lee respond to news that Cheonan naval ship was likely, though not definitively, sunk by a North Korean torpedo?
The sinking of the Cheonan and North Korea’s recent attempt to assassinate a high-ranking defector inside South Korea suggest that we’ve entered a dangerous new phase of the dormant Korean War. This unstable dormancy began with a 1953 cease fire, which North Korea unilaterally renounced last year. North Korea appears to have chosen a strategy of provocation like the one it pursued in the late 196o’s, when it seized the U.S.S. Pueblo, killed several American soldiers and dozens of South Koreans in cross-DMZ raids, sent a team of commandos to Seoul kill the President of South Korea, and shot down an American surveillance aircraft, killing all 31 members of its crew.
This precedent suggests that Presidents Lee and Obama will soon face greater tests. The question of how to respond to the sinking of the Cheonan may be only the first of these. The last-minute cancellation of U.S. Forces Korea’s annual Noncombatant Evacuation Operation exercise, ostensibly to avoid the appearance of panic, suggest that both governments understand the gravity of the danger. No one wants the people of Korea to hear “White Christmas” in May.
I’ve already explained why a direct military response would create an unacceptable risk of a catastrophic war and, most likely, would be precisely what Kim Jong Il needs to reconsolidate his rule and bequeath it to his unaccomplished son, Kim Jong Eun, at a time of rising discontent. Just about everyone agrees that a military response would be a bad idea. Here, the agreement ends. The same foreign policy clique that has long advocated (as Christopher Badeaux has brilliantly put it) “managing” Kim Jong Il out of headlines, inevitably by paying him until he provokes us again, is now extending the argument that we lack good military options into the false contention that we have no options at all, except the one to which they are inextricably wedded: appeasement.
John Byron, our chief contrarian correspondent, recently wrote about stopping what he sees as the runaway military welfare train. The North Korean navy recently has provided an counter-example of what happens when a military is starved for support. North Korean patrol ships are getting pushy in contested waters, apparently because the crab season is about to begin, and (according to proven provider John McCreary) Pyongyang’s military mariners survive in part by crabbing and so in late spring start laying claim to crustacean-rich waters. I have this image in my head of the USS Harry S Truman cruising the Med with seine nets out.
Why is it D Day? Because unless there is some unexpected twist, by the end of the day (a phrase used literally here, not as a figure of speech) political junkies and Americans will one way or another be thrust upon a new political policy course with some answers
Today’s new and old media stories will (correctly) focus on the horse race aspect of the votes.
The House is expected to take up debate around 2 pm. EST and the day is expected to end around 6 or 7 p.m. with the final of several votes.
But it’s D.Day:
A win will change the narrative for the Democrats and Obama.
Pelosi seems to be on the cusp of success, with various news media tallies indicating she will have enough votes to declare victory by Sunday evening. Even so, Republican opposition was still in full force all day Saturday with House Minority Leader John Boehner saying passage of the Democratic plan for health reform would constitute “Armageddon” that would “ruin our country.” Republican and Democratic leaders are lined up to duke it out again on the Sunday morning talk shows.
To assure House Democrats worried Senate Democrats might not follow through on passing a package of changes to the Senate bill, Pelosi circulated a letter on Saturday from Senate Majority Harry Reid that pledged in writing to do just that. And an earlier proposal to pass the package of changes without ever formally voting on the Senate bill was reportedly discarded on Saturday. Republicans celebrated what could be viewed as a small victory for them – they had heavily criticized the so-called “deem and pass” strategy as circumventing fair legislative practice. But it’s just as possible that Pelosi figured she could pass the Senate bill without making the vote indirect – meaning that throwing out “deem and pass” was actually a sign of Democratic strength.
Pro-life Democrats who supported language in the original House bill that would have restricted access to abortion still constituted the largest bloc of holdout votes Saturday night. There were rumors late Saturday that Obama would issue an executive order reaffirming that health reform legislation will not provide federal funds for abortion, which could provide some political cover and allow some of these Democrats to vote for the Senate bill. Bart Stupak, the pro-life Democratic congressman who authored the original House abortion language, abruptly canceled a morning press conference on Saturday.
But barring something unforeseen, it seems likely that, by Monday, Democrats will have something to celebrate after so many months of uncertainty.
“We have the votes. We are going to make history today,” Rep. John Larson D-Conn., the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said today on “This Week”. “President Roosevelt passed Social Security; President Roosevelt passed Medicare; and today, Barack Obama will pass health care reform, demonstrating whose side we are on,” Larson told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.
The president gave a rousing, rambling speech before the House Democratic Caucus this afternoon. It wasn’t so much a closing argument as it was a summation: of the bill, of the politics, of the moment, of the history, and even of the Democratic Party. When I wrote to the White House’s press folks to ask why they hadn’t send out the prepared remarks, they said there were none. The president was just talking, which explains the loose structure and the raw, emotional feel of the text. Here’s the transcript, one of the final important documents in a long and important debate:
I have the great pleasure of having a really nice library at the White House. And I was tooling through some of the writings of some previous Presidents and I came upon this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”
This debate has been a difficult debate. This process has been a difficult process. And this year has been a difficult year for the American people. When I was sworn in, we were in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Eight hundred thousand people per month were losing their jobs. Millions of people were losing their health insurance. And the financial system was on the verge of collapse.
Now, is this bill perfect? Of course not. Will this solve every single problem in our health care system right away? No. There are all kinds of ideas that many of you have that aren’t included in this legislation. I know that there has been discussion, for example, of how we’re going to deal with regional disparities and I know that there was a meeting with Secretary Sebelius to assure that we can continue to try to make sure that we’ve got a system that gives people the best bang for their buck. (Applause.)
So this is not — there are all kinds of things that many of you would like to see that isn’t in this legislation. There are some things I’d like to see that’s not in this legislation. But is this the single most important step that we have taken on health care since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this the most important piece of domestic legislation in terms of giving a break to hardworking middle class families out there since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this a vast improvement over the status quo? Absolutely.
Now, I still know this is a tough vote, though. I know this is a tough vote. I’ve talked to many of you individually. And I have to say that if you honestly believe in your heart of hearts, in your conscience, that this is not an improvement over the status quo; if despite all the information that’s out there that says that without serious reform efforts like this one people’s premiums are going to double over the next five or 10 years, that folks are going to keep on getting letters from their insurance companies saying that their premium just went up 40 or 50 percent; if you think that somehow it’s okay that we have millions of hardworking Americans who can’t get health care and that it’s all right, it’s acceptable, in the wealthiest nation on Earth that there are children with chronic illnesses that can’t get the care that they need — if you think that the system is working for ordinary Americans rather than the insurance companies, then you should vote no on this bill. If you can honestly say that, then you shouldn’t support it. You’re here to represent your constituencies and if you think your constituencies honestly wouldn’t be helped, you shouldn’t vote for this.
But if you agree that the system is not working for ordinary families, if you’ve heard the same stories that I’ve heard everywhere, all across the country, then help us fix this system. Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. Do it for all those people out there who are struggling.
Some of you know I get 10 letters a day that I read out of the 40,000 that we receive. Started reading some of the ones that I got this morning. “Dear President Obama, my daughter, a wonderful person, lost her job. She has no health insurance. She had a blood clot in her brain. She’s now disabled, can’t get care.” “Dear President Obama, I don’t yet qualify for Medicare. COBRA is about to run out. I am desperate, don’t know what to do.”
Do it for them. Do it for people who are really scared right now through no fault of their own, who’ve played by the rules, who’ve done all the right things, and have suddenly found out that because of an accident, because of an ailment, they’re about to lose their house; or they can’t provide the help to their kids that they need; or they’re a small business who up until now has always taken pride in providing care for their workers and it turns out that they just can’t afford to do it anymore and they’ve having to make a decision about do I keep providing health insurance for my workers or do I just drop their coverage or do I not hire some people because I simply can’t afford it — it’s all being gobbled up by the insurance companies.
Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for the Democratic Party. Do it for the American people. They’re the ones who are looking for action right now. (Applause.)
Things are getting pretty heated in the Capitol with crowds of anti-Reform/Tea Party activists going through the halls shouting slogans and epithets at Democratic members of Congress.
As our Brian Beutler reports, a few moments ago in the Longworth office building, a group swarmed a very calm looking Henry Waxman, as he got on the elevator, with shouts of “Kill the bill!” “You liar! You crook!”
Not long before, Rep. Barney Frank got an uglier version of the treatment. Just after Frank rounded a corner to leave the building, an older protestor yelled “Barney, you faggot.” The surrounding crowd of protestors then erupted in laughter.
At one point, Capitol police officer threatened to throw a group of protestors out of the building but that only seemed to inflame them more; and apparently none were ejected.
Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Andre Carson (D-IN) related a particularly jarring encounter with a large crowd of protesters screaming “kill the bill”… and punctuating their chants with the word “nigger.”
Standing next to Lewis, emerging from a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, Carson said people in the crowd yelled, “kill the bill and then the N-word” several times, while he and Lewis were exiting the Cannon House office building.
“People have been just downright mean,” Lewis added.
And that wasn’t an isolated incident. Early this afternoon, standing outside a Democratic whip meeting in the Longworth House office building, I watched Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) make his way out the door, en route to the neighboring Rayburn building. As he rounded the corner toward the exit, wading through a huge crowd of tea partiers and other health care protesters, an elderly white man screamed “Barney, you faggot”–a line that caused dozens of his confederates to erupt in laughter.
After that incident, Capitol police threatened to expel the protesters from the building, but were outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed. Tea party protesters equipped with high-end video cameras were summoned to film the encounter and the officers ultimately relented.
After the caucus meeting, TPMDC’s Evan McMorris-Santoro caught up with Frank, who reflected on the incident.
“I’m disappointed at a unwillingness to be just civil,” Frank said. “[T]he objection to the health care bill has become a proxy for other sentiments.”
“Obviously there are perfectly reasonable people that are against this, but the people out there today on the whole–many of them were hateful and abusive,” Frank added.
The nature of attracting tens of thousands of people from around the country to protest is such that you are bound to attract a disproportionate share of yahoos, reprobates, and slimeballs. Whether the Tea Party movement has more of these than your average anti-war rally or World Trade Organization protest, I don’t know.
But Barney Frank is right on all scores here.
Not only is uncivil conduct “disappointing,” it’s ultimately destructive. (Indeed, while I share common cause on some issues, I’ve been dismissive of the Tea Party movement precisely because of their unfocused anger and rude behavior.) If the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s taught us anything, it was that the quiet dignity of citizens gathered to respectfully demand justice is enormously powerful — especially when it’s juxtaposed against thuggish behavior from the other side.
Movements with significant numbers of incidents like this — whether representative or not — are simply much easier to dismiss.
UPDATE: Reader Rob Kleine writes: “All the focus on the anti-Obamacare protests has me wondering: Are there any pro-Obamacare protesters? Or is the Emperor truly w/o clothes?” I think there was an anti-war protest today in DC, too, but if there were pro-Obamacare protesters I haven’t heard about ‘em.
And several readers note a conundrum for the media — since they ignored the anti-ObamaCare protests, it’ll be awkward for them to suddenly start running stories about charges of racism at those nonexistent protests.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Short on hate: “The rally earlier today on the West Lawn in opposition to the health-care legislation before Congress had all the fingerprints of a somewhat organic celebration of democracy. There was a pretty focused message, but mostly displayed on handwritten signs. . . . As I walked around, if it weren’t for the congressmen and some right-wing organization types speaking, one might think people had gathered for an Independence Day celebration. There were smiles and babies and families and goodwill. Now and again I would run into some lone guy responding to a speaker with ‘then we’ll dismantle the government.’ But that guy also got weird looks — and not just from me. I was struck by how few mass-produced signs there were. Many groups might try to take credit for the rally, but concerned Americans are responsible for it.” Lots of pics at the link.
Plus this: “Those gathered today, among many others across the country and in Washington who oppose this ill-conceived legislation from a condescending, patronizing administration — will not be giving up tomorrow. Because Monday is another day. And so is the first Tuesday in November.”
And, by way of contrast, here are some photos from that antiwar rally today in DC. Note the Soviet-nostalgia T-shirt. But guess which one the press will cast as “extremist?”
In the jittery days following Scott Brown’s Senate victory, Nancy Pelosi was eager to resurrect comprehensive health reform. But first, she had to get past longtime ally Rahm Emanuel, who was counseling President Barack Obama to consider a smaller, piecemeal approach. During a mid-February conference call with top House Democrats, Pelosi made it clear she would accept nothing short of a big-bang health care push – dismissing the White House chief of staff as an “incrementalist.”
Pelosi even coined a term to describe Emanuel’s scaled-down approach: “Kiddie Care,” according to a person privy to the call.
Pelosi’s remark was more than just a diss. It sent a clear signal to House leadership that Pelosi wouldn’t compromise – and it coincided with Obama’s own decision to renew his push for an all-encompassing bill after weeks of confusion and discussion.
So… Do you think you’d be seeing puff pieces in Dick Cheney’s personal diary, the Politico, if the bill had failed? And puff pieces about Nancy Pelosi, of all people?
This is what I have never understood about those who voted yes the first time around but were then spooked on purely political matters (and not the actual content of the bill). The Republicans simply are going to oppose you no matter what (as Blanche Lincoln is learning, years of tongue-kisses to the GOP doesn’t amount to a bucket of warm spit), and if the bill passes, the entire narrative changes. For everyone. And the way the teabaggers are playing along, throwing out racial epithets and yelling faggot while screaming about taking matters into their own hands, they are providing the perfect frame for this comeback story.
As an aside, I think when people feel comfortable to talk on record, meaning years from now, I think it is going to turn out that the toughness of Nancy Pelosi and the patience of Obama are what saved his Presidency. She might turn out to be the best partner he has in all of DC, and will probably, depending on what happens, go down as one of the greatest speakers in recent memory. Every time she needs the votes, she gets them.
I don’t know whether Nancy Pelosi has her 216 votes yet, but there’s reason to think she didn’t as of around noon today. That’s when Reps. Driehaus (D., Ohio) and Dahlkemper (D., Penn.), both of the Stupak coalition, met with the Speaker in her office. Apparently, she still needed to win a few more votes from members of that coalition.
Another member of the Stupak group, Dan Lipinski (D-Ill), told The HIll that Stupak still commands more than seven votes against the bill. “There’s still time and they still need votes,” Lipinski said.
The thinking here is that Pelosi will find a way to get what she needs. But the clock is ticking and she may not be there yet.
UPDATE: Jeffrey Anderson at NRO’s Critical Condition blog says Pelosi is still short. He counts 208 leaning in favor, 214 leaning against, and nine undecided. At this point, though, “leaning against” may mean “waiting for an inducement” in some cases.
JOHN adds: This is consistent with what James Hohmann of Politico told us on our radio show this morning, i.e., that as of around 1:00 this afternoon, Pelosi had 206-208 “yes” votes.
One cannot help but admire Nancy Pelosi’s skill as a legislator. But it’s also pretty worrying. Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority? Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country that they didn’t want this bill. And that mattered basically not at all. If you don’t find that terrifying, let me suggest that you are a Democrat who has not yet contemplated what Republicans might do under similar circumstances. Farewell, social security! Au revoir, Medicare! The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected. If they didn’t–if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission–then the legislative lock-in you’re counting on wouldn’t exist.
Oh, wait–suddenly it doesn’t seem quite fair that Republicans could just ignore the will of their constituents that way, does it? Yet I guarantee you that there are a lot of GOP members out there tonight who think that they should get at least one free “Screw You” vote to balance out what the Democrats just did.
If the GOP takes the legislative innovations of the Democrats and decides to use them, please don’t complain that it’s not fair. Someone could get seriously hurt, laughing that hard.
The Enemy Of My Enemy Of My Enemy Of My Enemy…
Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
DRJ at Patterico:
Duraid Al Baik at Gulf News:
EARLIER: Joe Biden, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran
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