Notes on Political Venality, Pomposity and Associated Stupidity.

Friday, December 23, 2005

"Melissa and Tim's Excellent Iraq Adventure"

Congresswoman Melissa Hart of Western Pennsylvania, apparently hoping to follow in the boots of her nearby battle-weary buddy Tim Murphy, is off to Iraq for the Christmas holiday.

She'll be, according to her spokeswoman, "speaking to soldiers about whether they have all the necessary equipment such as adequate protective armor for their mission," as well as assessing how the training of Iraqi troops is going. Of course, Ms. Hart probably wouldn't know the receiver from the firing pin of a rifle, but her keen insights into troop training will certainly be worth the trip!

Tell you want this is. This is CYA.

Hart may actually face a real, legit opponent for her seat next year, and she's probably getting antsy. Since she first took office, she's been a total GOP sycophant and, under George Bush, she's risen (on the strength of her ability to takes orders) to a position of some power. It is Ms. Hart who has been a big part of stalling the work of the Congressional Ethics Committee. That's a resume point that only King George (and Tom DeLay) can really appreciate!

But back to Iraq. What Melissa is doing is just what Murphy did, and what thousands of pols have done before in times of war; they are using it for political gain. I can almost guarantee you that none of the soliders in Iraq give a hoot whether some clueless Congresswoman shows up in fatigues and asks "meaningful" questions. They know the score. Don't ask. Don't tell.

But the comment about armor is an interesting one. Of all the issues she could have mentioned, this was clearly near the top of the Hart campaign's list of talking points. Why? Because they've done research and found out that the lack of armor for our soliders pisses off a lot of people; people on both sides of the idealogical breach. Hench, Hart will cross her arms in stern consternation and will, in the coming election year, make a faux stand against the Administrations "delays" in getting armor to the troops. I can bet you that, upon her return, the Hart campaign will issue a press release which "calls for more aggresive action to supply the needed armor to our troops." Hell, it's probably already written.

Melissa may not be as lucky as Dr. Tim was, when his vehicle went off the road and he hit his hard head hard against some steel plating, but nothing stops her from hoping for a Christmas miracle....

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bush's America; The Wheels Have Come Off

George Bush has the same problem that any liar does; eventually it all catches up with you and Dad knocks on your bedroom door, demanding an explanation.

Our benighted President wants us to believe that his authorization of secret spying is okay, because the "terrorists" are breathing down our necks and will stop at nothing to kill fine, peace-loving Americans. The problem is, if you follow his twisted logic, the "war on terror" will never be over, and, by extension, the spying on citizens without a court order will never end, either. Essentially this means that George W. Bush has, in one very foul swoop, forever changed the laws of this great land. It's law by fiat, which equals a dictatorship...not a democracy. Maybe that's the idea he has for Iraq.

Other than the clear legal issues concerning the NSA's domestic spying is the fact that, it could be easily handled differently; but that never occurs to the Bush clan. If, for instance, a tip led law enforcement officials to think they needed and "instant wiretip," (something I can imagine) I'd be glad to let them go ahead, as long as they'd come back to the court later to obtain the needed warrant. If the court decided the evidence did not support a warrant, then they could say that any evidence unearthed was "fruit of the poisonous tree" and would not be admissable in court. Simple.

But, like I said, the Bushies see the world differently. Very differently.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Scratch My Back with a 300-Million Dollar Arena!

Apparently, if you hang around long enough, and whine loud enough, someone will eventually build you a new arena, stadium, baseball park or convention center. And that someone is usually the state or local government, which means that someone is really you and me.

So it goes in western Pennsylvania that the forces are beginning to gain momentum and someone, whether it's Country Executive, Dan Onorato, Mayor-elect, Bob O'Connor or the sitting Governer, Ed Rendell -- someone is going to get credit for "saving the Penguins." Maybe it's because of that movie. I don't know. And the truth is, all these pols want to be the savior. Maybe it's because of Christmas. I don't know.

There are many interesting twists and turns to this venture. I'll just note a few;

The City of Pittsburgh is a bankrupt shell. There is absolutely no way any money should be handed over to a sports team until (or, if ever) the City gets its act together. Schools are being closed, downtown is slipping further into the void and O'Connor wants to build an arena?

This is the "stadiums" issue all over again. The citizenry doesn't want a new arena, particularly. They'd probably rather be able to shop downtown, but they don't, not when the day rate for parking is hovering around $20. At that price, who's going to go to the same store that's in their nearby mall? Who's going to go in for lunch...or dinner?

The slow moving slots bail-out is bogged down in Byzantine back door deals and bizarre the Pens will be long gone before the first token has dropped, skating away to Kansas City or elsewhere. Can someone tell me why we needed these "brokers" to sell machines? Was it just so Jim Roddey could do something in his retirement?

Did anyone notice that the Pens didn't play last year? Not many. I'm a fan, but I could not only live without a hometown team, I could get through my life without the NHL altogether.

Rendell, feeling the heat as his re-election looms, would love to solidify some votes in WPA.

Finally, if someone wants to dump $300-million on the City of Pittsburgh, don't ya' think we could find better ways to spend it....?


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Santorum Lets Others Do His Dirty Work

The current dustup in the Santorum/Casey campaign is just a sneak peek of things to come, but it is illustrative of how Santorum's public persona as the angelic "person of faith" doesn't jibe with the reality of inside-the-beltway politics.

At issue are TV commercials which are running throughout PA under the auspices of a group called Americans for Job Security. AJS is constituted as a 501(c) not-for-profit organization, which allows it to hide its contributors, unlike a 527, which would have to reveal who's paying the bills. While it would be clear to a 5th grader that AJS's communications are indeed "intended to effect the outcome of elections" (thus making it, as a 501(c), in violation of IRS regs) the group has, so far, been able to skirt the law on this count.

What this amounts to is that Santorum is taking money and running ads paid for by...who knows? He and his staff can demure all they want, and claim this is out of their control, but the the bottom line is Rick is being supported by a shadowy group that refuses to come clean about who funds it...and what sort of quid pro quo is involved. Rest assured, however, that Rick knows where the money is flowing from!

A side issue in all this is the use of the same stock footage in the AJS commercial and a web-only ad running on Santorum's site. The question this raises is whether AJS had communication with Santorum's media frim, Brabender Cox, in violation of campaign laws. I would suggest that the Casey team get their counsel on the phone with the FEC and Getty Images or Corbis (or whomever was involved) and find out who ordered what when, and what the terms of the licensing was.

The bottom line in all of this is that Santorum, even in these early days of this campaign, is relying on others to do his wet work for him and is hiding behind a Chinese puzzle box of campaign law loopholes. Not the sort of thing the people in the "T" should expect from such an upstanding citizen, is it?