Thursday, September 20, 2007

Saddam Killed Nelson Mandela

Now Saddam went and killed Nelson Mandela! So it would seem from President Bush's news conference today.
"Part of the reason why there is not this instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein's brutal rule. I thought an interesting comment was made when somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, where's Mandela? Well, Mandela is dead, because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas." -- President Bush quoted in official White House Transcript
ThinkProgress has the video clip here.

The President has been criticized for linking 9/11 to Iraq or Saddam in speeches for years. This is apparently the first time he's linked Saddam to Nelson Mandela's death.

Oh, and by the way. Nelson Mandela is still alive. (White House/ThinkProgress)

Too Many Mosques -- Unedited

Rep Peter King (R-NY) has tried to back off from an interview in which he said there are too many mosques in America:

"Unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country. There's too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully. We should be finding out how we can infiltrate. We should be much more aggressive in law enforcement." -- Rep King, in an interview with
Now he says the quote was taken out of context. So, turned to YouTube to let you decide on the context:

Abe Lincoln in Color

A new $5 bill starts circulating next year -- adding touches of purple and gray. Part of the Treasury Department's efforts to make counterfieting harder -- the fin will have security upgrades that bills from the sawbuck to c-note have already gotten.

These include two watermarks featuing the numberal "5" and the security tape will be moved to a part of the bill different from where the $100 bill's tape runs. (USAToday)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Making the Culture of Corruption List

Watchdog group CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) has a new list of the "22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress."

Nineteen Republicans and three Democrats are on the list.

How bad do you have to be to make the list? Sen Larry Craig (R-ID) and Sen David Vitter (R-LA) only got a "dishonorable mention."

Says something when pleading guilty to soliciting sex in a men's room and hanking out with hookers won't even get you into the top 20. (CREW)

Them Pesky Priorities

When the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis last month, the head of the emergency management for the state's transportation department was in Boston -- attending a seminar at Harvard on terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Instead of heading home to help with the real disaster -- Sonia Kay Morphew Pitt spent another two days wrapping up the program at Harvard.

Then spent another eight days in Washington.

She didn't get back to Minnesota until 10 days after the collapse.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has put her on leave while they investigate her priorities. (KARE)

Big Surprise: Americans Hate Politicians!

President Bush and Congress have both hit record lows in the latest Zogby poll. From Zogby:

"Only 29 percent of Americans gave Bush a positive grade for his job performance, below his worst Zogby poll mark of 30 percent in March. A paltry 11 percent rated Congress positively, beating the previous low of 14 percent in July."
The poll -- most of which was taken after President Bush's Iraq speech last week -- showed only 27% believe the country's on the "right track."

Zogby blames public uncertainity over Iraq for pushing down the approval of both the President and Congress. (Zogby)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Romney News Conference in Critical Condition

Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney picked the wrong place to attack Democrat Hillary Clinton's health care plan she unveiled this week.

First, the hospital he used as a backdrop in his news conference didn't like the idea of being a political prop.

"We find it unfortunate that Mr. Romney misappropriated the image and good will of St. Vincent's Hospital to further a political agenda." -- a spokesman for New York City's, St Vincent's Hospital
Second, the hospital has a wing named for one of Governor Romney's Republican opponents. From the Washington Post:

"Maybe next time Romney will choose for a backdrop a hospital that isn't home to the Rudolph W. Giuliani Trauma Center."

No comment from any New York hospital if the Romney staffer who set this up is in intensive care. (WaPo-The Trail)

Bill Richardson Tries to Lose Union Endorsement

Democratic Presidential hopeful Bill Richardson ended his speech to a union meeting with, “Thank you, AFSCME!”

Problem is, he was speaking to the SEIU.

Not just the wrong union -- but a rival one.

Kinda like shouting "Hook 'em Horns" at commencement ceremonies at the University of Oklahoma. (MSNBC)

Bush Beat in Ratings

The ratings are in -- and Thursday's Democratic Response drew more viewers on cable than President Bush's Iraq speech last week.

Spread across the three cable nets -- FOX, MSNBC, and CNN -- TVNewser reports the President's speech drew a total of 1,654,000 viewers.

Sen Jack Reid (D-RI) drew 1, 766,000 -- a little over 100,000 more viewers. (TVNewser)

Janet Reno's Dance Party CD Collection

She's had more number one hits than John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales combined.

Now, for a limited time, you can own former Attorney General Janet Reno' 50 song collection of American music. Such American classics as:

Lakota Dream Song
Yankee Doodle
Battle Hymn of the Republic
Streets of Philadelphia

Enough with the commercial.

Janet Reno has released a 3-CD set of 50 songs tracing America's history through song. She began working on her Song of America project back in 1998 while she was still Attorney General. (Miami Herald)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Against that Blue Sky

On 9/11, I was on Capitol Hill. This is a video I made on the fifth anniversary of the attacks recalling my experiences.

I was on Capitol Hill during the 9/11 attacks three years ago. Shortly afterwards, I wrote down my recollections. They were included in the 9/11 Digital Archive, by the Center for History and New Media / American Social History Project & housed now at the Library of Congress.

Here's the story as I told it and submitted it in 2002:

I lived four blocks from the Capitol in Southeast at the time. I was supposed to meet a photog for a news conference in the Rayburn Office Building at 10:00, so I was taking my time getting dressed when I heard Charlie and Diane say a small plane had hit the WTC. I remembered the attack in 1993 and expected the worst.

I was glued to the set, seeing the second plane hit live. It was only in the frame for a few seconds, but it seems a thousand thoughts went through my mind. I remember trying to rationalize what I was seeing: maybe it's the police or fire department eyeballing the fire, maybe it's a plane on approach that looks closer because of the telephoto lens. Then the fireball.

I was late getting out of the house. It was a perfect late summer day in DC. I thought how terrible that something like this had to happen on such a beautiful day. I used my cell phone to check with the desk. They wanted me to send the photog I was meeting out with a producer to get reaction from the New York delegation after the news conference.

The sidewalks were crowded with young, Congressional staffers walking in, getting off the Metro, getting to work late. They'd obviously been watching, too. The same look of disbelief was all over the place.

I remember the jet engines overhead. They were there all the time, on the approach to National. Living there, you just shut them out. Couldn't help but hear them that morning.

I took a shortcut through the southeastern entrance of Longworth and into the tunnels connecting the buildings in the Capitol complex. It was probably only a couple of minutes before Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.

The desk couldn't reach me in the tunnels. The photog was out of touch coming up from the Rayburn parking garage. They got hold of us outside the news conference. But they were still confused about where to send us. They told us to standby. Big mistake. Within minutes the cell phone network in DC collapsed under the weight of all the calls.

Military officers – lots of one- and two-stars – poured out of hearing rooms. They walked briskly down the halls. They looked like the guys to follow. My photog and I came out in the ‘horseshoe,’ a notch cut into the north side of Rayburn with a semi-circular driveway. An army captain in BDUs was standing beside a Humvee, trying to get his cell phone to work.

We walked around the corner and say the thick, black smoke rising from the Pentagon.
Unable to raise the desk, we decided the photog would head towards the Capitol and get whatever video he could. I’d try to find a landline and find out where the desk wanted us. I headed back to the apartment. The sidewalks were crowded again. I have never seen so many cell phones. I counted. Only one-in-three people were actually able to talk to someone.

I got through from the apartment. I was called back to the bureau. The photog was to back up our regular photog at the White House. All I had to do was find him. I grabbed a bottle of water and a pair of cheap Wal-Mart walkie talkies that I figured might come in handy and headed back out the door.

Back outside, I heard more jet engines. I was looking for the planes. While in the apartment, I never heard the sonic boom. F-16s from the North Dakota National Guard, flying out of Langley AFB in Virginia, had dropped out of war speed and taken up station over the city. At the moment, I was walking toward one of the biggest, and most recognizable targets in town. I relaxed a lot when I caught a glimpse of the familiar Falcon shape loitering up there.

Capitol Police were well into evacuating the grounds when I got half way up the hill. I arrived behind the House Office Buildings just as they decided to move the perimeter across the street. Most of the cops were busy moving the barricades. People were trying to cross the street. One Capitol Police officer, directing the crowd looked over and we made eye contact for a second. I’d never seen him before, but he glanced down at my hill credentials. He looked around, as if making sure no one was watching, then motioned me with a slight head gesture toward the Capitol – completely forbidden. I stepped off the curb, and he turned his back. Plausible deniability – everyone in this town is hip to the act.

I walked past a few people, staffers mostly, at least one Capitol cop, straight up the hill. No one stopped me, yelled at me, or asked me where I was going. I made it across Constitution, and onto the Capitol grounds.

It was amazing. Except for the jets overhead, absolutely quiet – no voices, no other man made sounds. There was no one else around that I could see. Even before 9/11, some one was always there. You were never out of eyesight or earshot of security, even on a holiday weekend at midnight.

I stood there for what seemed like a good half-minute trying to figure out what to do next. No camera, all I’d have is an eyewitness account if anything happened. But it was an incredible, unrepeatable experience.

A Capitol Police officer called out to me from behind, I crossed the street, headed down the hill. I found my photog at the barricades, told him our assignments, and we went to work.

[For more stories from the 9/11 Digital Archive, click the image below.]

I am A Survivor of Flight 93

Originally posted on Sunday, September 11, 2005

Why is it, that 40 Americans who sacrificed their lives to stop a missile attack on Washington have never been awarded the Medal of Freedom (left). Something like that would seem worthy of the nation's highest civilian honor. Instead, we've since seen the former CIA Director who completely missed 9/11 and provided bad intel on Iraq receive it.

When our politicians, our military, our government as a whole failed us four years today, it fell upon private, American citizens to lead the fight.

They weren't even supposed to be the "last line of defense." They, being civilians, were supposed to be what our politicians, our military, our government as a whole existed to defend.

They weren't supposed to be the "last line of defense," but they became the first Americans to fight back -- somewhere over a peaceful field in Pennsylvania, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 fought the first battle in the War in Terrorism.

David Von Drehle in the July 23, 2004, edition of the Washington Post summed it up:
"Only a small band of civilians, strangers to one another -- without benefit of staff meetings, bylaws, uniforms or task forces -- communicating by cell phone with loved ones who happened to be watching TV -- managed to figure out what was going on in time to thwart a guided-missile attack on Washington.

Brave passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 forced hijackers to crash the plane into an empty field far short of its target."

I am a survivor of Flight 93.

There were no survivors on that plane, but the passengers and crew made sure there were hundreds if not thousands of survivors on the ground.

I was at the US Capitol when Flight 93 would have hit it.

Every 9/11 since, I have planted daffodils -- the unofficial flower of 9/11. The government of the Netherlands made a gift to New York City of tens of thousands of daffodil bulbs in the wake of the attack.

It's a quiet form of remembrance.

And they remind me every spring I am alive because forty people are dead and buried.

It's surprisingly tiring planting 40 bulbs.

Breaking the ground, placing each one carefully spaced and at just the right depth, covering them and watering them.

It would be a lot easier for the President to fill out the paperwork for 40 heroes.

Another President remembered other Americans who were buried in another peaceful Pennsylvania field this way:

"...that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain..."

This week we saw a monument for the Flight 93 crash site unveiled. We cannot consecrate the field where the passengers and crew of Flight 93 anymore than their actions have already done.

We can honor them as much as we have the man who missed the plot (right) that forced them to give up their lives for their country.

They should receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Terry Turner)

Monday, September 10, 2007

How Time Flies! 16 Weeks 'til Voting Starts

Voting in the 2008 election starts in just 16 weeks. As Al Tompkins at the Poynter Institute points out:

A third of all votes cast in 2008 could be absentee or early votes, an election watcher tells The ballots will have to go out soon -- so we could be about 16 weeks from the first votes being cast. points out that absentee voting ballots for at least four states go out around New Year's -- and some west coast voters could cast their votes before 2007 is done.

California starts mailing out absentee ballots on December 27. New Jersey and Tenessee will mail theirs out the first week of January. Early "in-person" voting begins Jan 10. also has the latest state-by-state schedule for primaries and caucuses.

Friday, September 07, 2007

APEC? OPEC? Thanks Austria!

In a two for one gaffe, President Bush was able to refer to the Austrailian Prime Minister as an "Austrian" and confuse the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit with OPEC.

Mr Bush was in Australia for the APEC summit. (

Feel Safer Yet?

Congressmen, babies, and even pets have made Uncle Sam's no-fly list that's supposed to protect us from terrorists boarding airliners. Wanna guess who hasn't made the list?

Try about 20 real live terrorists. From CNN:
Twenty known or suspected terrorists were not correctly listed on the government's consolidated watch list, preventing their records from being available to the nation's front-line screening agents, according to a U.S. Justice Department report.

There are more than 700,000 names now on the terrorist watch list. About 20,000 new ones are added each week.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Rock Star? Heck, Not Enough to Form a Rock Band!

Can't even say Sen Sam Brownback (R-KS) is "preaching to the choir" in this photo -- choirs have more members. This AP photo captured the Republican Presidential candidate on a campaign stop in New Hampshire. (AP via Yahoo!)