Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kevin Gallagher Fundraiser

Tennessee House District 89 candidate Kevin Gallagher held a fundraiser yesterday at Fresh Slice on Overton Park.

“It vastly exceeded expectations,” Gallagher said.

The event drew over 100 people. Shelby County Commissioner James Harvey was in attendance, as was former Shelby County Commissioner Linda Rendtorff. Former Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Kuhn attended, as did current Vice Chair Desi Franklin.

Much of the team that aided Gallagher in sending Steve Cohen to the US House of Representatives was in attendance as well, including Cohen Field Director/ impending Hillary Clinton Iowa team staffer Liz Rincon, former University of Memphis College Democrats President John Marek, several representatives of the current U of M College Democrats, and blogger Steve Steffens.

“I am heartened not only by the quantity but the quality of people that turned out,” Gallagher said.

Criminal Justice Part I: Don't Let the Truth Get In the Way.

This is the first article in a five part series examining justice as it is applied in the most serious cases our criminal court system is designed to handle--- Murder. Future articles will examine other convictions and look at improvements that can be made to improve the justice system.

Every time an innocent man is convicted, a guilty man goes free.

Twenty-one-year-old Debra Carter had been found beaten, raped, and suffocated in her garage apartment in Ada, Oklahoma on December 8, 1982.

After five years of police work that can only charitably be called slipshod, detectives caught a break in the case: A career criminal named Glen Gore told detectives that he had seen Ada resident Ron Williamson with Debra Carter at the night club she worked at on the night of the murder.

Williamson would never be mistaken for a choirboy. He had been arrested and acquitted twice on rape charges. He also had a long history of mental illness that dated back to his playing days for one of the New York Yankees’ farm teams.

Dennis Fritz was implicated simply because he was Williamson’s only friend. No witness put him anywhere near Carter on the night of the murder. Ironically, Fritz was a single parent because of the murder of his own wife several years earlier, a murder for which he was never a suspect.

Six years later, the two men had a difficult time establishing alibis. When the case was tried in 1988, DNA testing was rare and in its infancy. The police had blood and hair on the scene that they thought could theoretically have come from the two men, but nothing conclusive.

During interrogation, Ron Williamson mentioned having had a nightmare about spirits attacking him. Police insisted that this dream was a thinly veiled confession.

District Attorney William Peterson handled the case. Three jailhouse informants testified against Dennis Fritz in his April 1988 trial. Coupled with the hair and blood evidence and his friendship with Williamson sealed his fate. One juror held out during the sentencing phase to make it a life sentence instead of a death sentence.

Attorney General William Peterson presented as evidence Glen Gore's statement (Perhaps tellingly, he refused to testify at trial) that the victim had told him on the night of the murder that Ron Williamson had been bothering her. A jailhouse informant named Terri Holland told the jury that she had overheard Ron Williamson confessing to the murder in jail. She joined yet another jailhouse informant who miraculously heard Williamson confess to the crime less than 24 hours before police were going to have to release Williamson for lack of evidence. The jury returned a guilty verdict and sentenced Williamson to death.

In 1994, Williamson was five days away from his date with the needle when he was granted a stay of execution. The Innocent Man.

A year and a half after the murder of Debra Carter, there was yet another murder in Ada Oklahoma. If it sounds like I’m telling you the same story twice, I assure you, I’m not.

Twenty-four-year-old newlywed Denise Haraway had been abducted from the Ada convenience store where she was employed. The cash register had been emptied, and the victim’s car and purse were still on the scene.

Several months later, twenty-year-old Tommy Ward was questioned, as he resembled a man seen walking out of the store with Haraway. A jailhouse informant (Starting to see a pattern already? Just wait.) told police that he had overheard who had killed Haraway.

Ward initially denied any involvement in the murder. He was released and took a polygraph at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. When he was told he had failed, he explained that he thought the results might have been off because of a dream he had.

After eight hours of unrecorded interrogation, Ward confessed to the murder, implicating two others in the death. He told investigators that he had participated in the abduction, rape, and murder of Haraway with his best friend Karl Fontenot and another Ada resident, Odell Titsworth. He told them that Titsworth was the ringleader, and that the thre of them gang-raped her, murdered her with Titsworth’s knife, and dumped her body near Sandy Creek. He apparently didn’t know Titsworth very well, as he kept referring to him as “Titsdale” throughout the recorded part of the interrogation.

Karl Fontenot was arrested, and confessed after two hours of interrogation. His confession clashed with Ward’s on the order in which the three men raped her, as well as the number of stab wounds. In his confession, after murdering her with Titsworth’s knife, they took her to an abandoned house where Titsworth poured gasoline over her and burned the body.

Police picked up Titsworth for questioning, but decided that it was unlikely that he could have carried out the attack. He had broken his arm in a scuffle with police only days before the murder, a fact that neither Ward nor Fontenot apparently knew. He was never charged.

Police sifted the remains of the burned out house where Fontenot claimed the body of Denise Haraway had been destroyed. As they were examining the “crime scene”, the owner came out and told them that it was impossible for the suspects to have destroyed the body in that house--- He had burned down the house himself ten months before the murder.

But none of that really mattered to District Attorney William Peterson (See the pattern forming again?). He had another jailhouse informant whose testimony would cement the case---

Terri Holland. Look a little further back up the page, and you’ll see that this is not the first time she’s provided testimony in a murder case. She claimed to have overheard Karl Fontenot confessing, just as she had claimed to have overheard Ron Williamson. I’m not sure there’s a priest in America that has heard as many confessions as Ms. Holland has claimed to have heard.

Besides her testimony, District Attorney Peterson had to ask a jury to believe two confessions that contradicted one another in almost every way, and both indicated the involvement of a third man that the police department never saw fit to file charges against.

And believe it they did. For Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot received death sentences.

Four months after the sentences were handed down, a trapper found the skeletal remains of Denise Haraway in a field. Forensic examinations have revealed no signs of stabbing, but a bullet hole in her skull. No soft tissue remained, so no DNA has been harvested. Her body was found 30 miles away from any place mentioned in either “confession”.

Ward and Fontenot were retried. And on the basis of “confessions” which not only didn’t match each other terribly well, but bore no resemblance to the physical evidence in the case, they both received life sentences.

Mark Barrett, the defense attorney that helped clear Williamson and Fritz in 1999, has taken over the case and feels confident that he can not only clear his clients, but he feels confident that he can prove who actually committed the murder.

William Peterson still serves as District Attorney for the City of Ada.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Men of Virtue

It’s heartening to see NFL players turn out for a good cause--- You know, like defending Michael Vick for animal cruelty.

In a backpedal worthy of John McCain, Washington Redskins player Clinton Portis called dog fighting a “prevalent” part of life (In the words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. ”) before issuing another statement stating “I do not participate in dog fighting or condone dog fighting in any manner”.

His moronic teammate Chris Samuels added “Have you ever seen ‘Animal Planet’?” with a giggle.

The facts of the case are very simple. Michael Vick has a home in Virginia, one of the many states where dog fighting is illegal (If it’s legal in any state at all, I’m not aware of it). Over the course of raiding this home as part of a drug investigation (You know, because Vick is such a virtuous soul), police found dozens of dogs and equipment associated with dog fighting.

It’s animal cruelty, plain and simple. It does not matter, as Portis says, that the dogs are Vick’s property. The fact is that you are not allowed to do this to living creatures.

I’ve seen dog fighting video before. A company I used to work for had a sideline business copying uncopyrighted videos for people, and some assclown brought in a video a few minutes before we closed for the weekend.

I got back in on Monday, and we put the tape in to copy--- And we saw several men gathered around, placing bets as two pitbulls fought to the death.

We called the police. My coworker at the time raised and bred Akitas, and I love dogs enough that animal cruelty is something we take pretty severe offense at.

And even the dog fight itself is only the tip of the problem. A big dog on fight day has, as a general rule, been beaten mercilessly and fed countless smaller animals to try and stoke the bloodlust that would make domesticated animals act like vicious wild predators.

You train a dog for the fighting circuit by beating and starving it. Then you put smaller animals in the pen with it. A kitten. A smaller dog. The dog learns to associate killing another animal with survival. Then and only then do you have a fighting dog.

Michael Vick is a part of this.

So I think it’s only fair, if it’s proven that he takes part in this, that he be thrown in a pen with a bunch of larger predators. As an athlete, he may be able to take a few of them out--- But not all of them. And famous inmates always have a bullseye on their heads. If he was still alive, you could ask Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who routinely got his ass kicked behind bars.

I cannot advocate strongly enough the idea of Michael Vick learning a lesson about cruelty by being fed up to some larger predators.

Idol Chatter

We’re down to the finals on “American Idol” this week.

The big winner? Everyone who quit watching already.

It’s now down to a “human beat box” (And the judges have been proving all season just how desperately out of touch they are when they call this white kid “unique” for doing something the black kids in my junior high P.E. class circa 1984 used to do in the locker room) vs. a seventeen-year-old that sings with slightly less soul than C3-PO.

This show is based on a British show with a British formula for finding the next pop star, all while overlooking one crucial element:

British pop sucks.

I was watching a show on BBC America a couple of weeks ago that was going for a “hip” feel by using a British pop song. When I heard it, I reflexively reached for my cell phone--- The intro to the song sounded that much like a bad ring tone.

The show was supposed to be improved by the addition of a real house band--- Yet with few notable exceptions (Those being when they played the songs wrong, such as Haley Scarnato’s rendition of “Brass In Pocket” and Jordin Sparks’ version of “Living On A Prayer”, a song so simple that a guitar, if thrown off a cliff, can play it by itself as it bangs against the jagged rocks on the way down), it still sounds like a bad karaoke CD.

Call me a pop culture curmudgeon if you must. But one thing you notice as you grow older is that increasingly, “pop culture” is an oxymoron, and the real purpose of “American Idol” is to give us something to chatter about between football season and baseball season.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Living With MS" Blog Relaunched

Sometimes, good things happen and I don't notice them immediately.

Several months back, all of us on the Memphis scene were sad to note that a lady who had been great to all of us had quit blogging when Blinders Off felt that she was unable to continue her "Living With MS" blog. Those of us that have had to see Multiple Sclerosis in action certainly understood, though.

Well I'm glad to point out to anyone that has had their head up their own arse similarly to mine that she has indeed now relaunched as of two weeks ago today.

We're glad to have your voice back on the scene, Blinders!

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Gallagher Crime Plan

I didn't realize it, but Kevin Gallagher demonstrated yesterday why I love it when candidates blog, particularly local candidates. He unveiled the Gallagher Crime Plan, and I think it's a particularly interesting one.

I would recommend everyone go check it out.

UPDATE: My friend and brother Vibinc pointed out to me that the Gallagher Crime Plan is also available on Gallagher's official campaign site:


$21 per Week

I’ve been fortunate in my life. I’ve never had to go on food stamps. So I had no idea just how low the average weekly allowance in food stamps actually is until I saw this Liberadio piece via Volunteer Voters (This piece actually began its life as a comment at VV, but I got frustrated and put it here when the VV page refreshed, wiping out everything I'd written)

$21 per week. That shakes out to $3 per day, averaging a dollar per meal.

Now, I can already hear the voices from the right chiming in to tell me how wrong I am to want an increase. Read the rest of this before you do, though.

Keeping the limit at $21 forces the poor into miserable nutritional choices. I’m not saying that the poor will necessarily make better nutritional choices if they’re given more to work with--- But as it stands now, they are forced into the very worst of everything. Fat is cheap because it has very little nutritional value. I’m sure I could save at the grocery store if I quit buying the 90% lean ground beef at $2.99 per pound and went with the ridiculously fatty ground beef at $1.79 per pound. But buying the $1.79 per pound ground beef has side effects that I don’t want, the least of which is an expanding waistline. Limiting your weekly grocery shopping to $21 per week forces you into the fattier foods. It guarantees that your diet will consist almost entirely of fats and starchy foods such as potatoes.

We face an obesity epidemic in this nation. From 1976-80, our nation stood at 15% obesity. A similar survey taken in 2003-04 put the obesity rate at 32.9%, according to the CDC.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the health risks associated with obesity. Type II diabetes, heart disease, hypertension leading to increased strokes, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory problems--- The list goes on.

The $21.7 billion in the year 2000 alone. That factors in health care, work absence, and school absence.

Simply put, keeping the allowance at $21 per week virtually guarantees that people are forced into the kind of nutritional choices that will make them more likely to drain our resources in the future.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Keith Olbermann Accepts the First Annual Ivins Award

And although he is sadly not on the video, the Memphis Flyer's publisher Ken Neill presented it to him.


UPDATE: Pesky Fly has Ken Neill's speech transcribed here.

Straight Outta Fordville.

So it's come to my attention that there are some upset voters in District 89.

Jeanne Richardson signs are popping up all over the district. The problem is that not everyone who now has a Richardson sign in the front yard is someone that actually requested one.

For anyone that's familiar with Memphis politics at all, you'll recognize the tactic. People involved with the Ford campaigns (And as I've pointed out before, there is definitely some overlap) have a tendency to do that. I've seen it firsthand myself--- I went to a Ford event, came out, and found his bumper sticker stuck to my car.

Congressman Steve Cohen, whose successful congressional campaign was managed by Richardson's opponent Kevin Gallagher, has made it clear that he supports Gallagher and will intervene in this race directly if there were any more shenanigans in this race.

Will this be what it takes? Are the unnamed people running the Richardson campaign reckless enough to want to trigger that?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

And I Didn't Even Know She Was Running For a Federal Office!

This is a mailer that was just sent out by the Jeanne Richardson campaign. If you're looking at the headline and having one of those Jon Stewart "Whuuuuuuuuu?" moments, I assure you--- You're not the only one.

For while I don't think you could find many Democrats that would disagree with the notion that Bush's War is Horrible (Perhaps Harold Ford Jr, but it depends what day of the week you ask him), you're left with one problem at the end of the day---

Tennessee's House of Representatives has about as much pull regarding Iraq as Paris Hilton would in a school for the gifted.

The second part of the mailer makes a decent, if somewhat convoluted case for using the state's budget surplus to help pick up the shortfall created by funding cuts Bush made to federal (Note that word) programs such as Head Start. And I certainly don't think that is an unreasonable thing to want.

But this mailer is insulting to the intelligence of District 89's voters. Jeanne Richardson is not running against George W. Bush, nor is she running for any office that has any influence on whether or not the war is funded. If she's elected, she'll wield just as much influence over the course of the war as she has today.

She's not running against George W. Bush. She's running against Kevin Gallagher, who opposes the war just as much as she does.

Of course, he's not trying to run a campaign against George W. Bush.

But... But... Who Will Protect Our Children From Gay Teletubbies Now???

As you no doubt have heard, Jerry Falwell died yesterday.

I come to bury the idiot, not to praise him.

Throughout his life, he had an unblemished record for being on the absolute wrong side of any given issue. Any time he was given half a chance, he would preach that Jesus wants you to "love they neighbor"--- At least as long as it was the neighbor in the next pew.

“If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God's word and had desired to do the Lord's will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision [Brown v. Board of Education] would never have been made…. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.”

That stance should hardly have been a surprise. We're still talking about the man who regularly featured Lester Maddox and George Wallace on his "Old-Time Gospel Hour" to spread their "Christian message. He's the same guy that constantly referred to the Civil Rights Movement as the "Civil Wrongs Movement" (Clever one he was, eh?).

In his 1965 sermon called "Ministers and Marches", he admonished Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and James Farmer for supporting communism (Which, in that day as now, was fatass white guy-speak for equal rights) before adding "Preachers are not called to be politicians, but to be soul winners."

Of course, that was a few years before he said "In recent months, God has been calling me to do more than just preach--He has called me to take action. I have a divine mandate to go right into the halls of Congress and fight for laws that will save America."

In other words--- Ministers getting involved in the fight against subjugation of black people = BAD. Ministers helping rightwing politicians get elected = GOOD. Got it.

Lest anyone think he left racism behind once the Civil Rights Act became law, he travelled to South Africa to support the Botha (Apartheid) regime, and came back encouraging white Christians to purchase Krugerrands to bolster South Africa's failing government, called Nelson Mandela "pro-terrorist", and decided that he, a white American, knew what was in the interest of black South Africans better than the black South Africans did by declaring Archbishop Desmond Tutu a "phony" who "misrepresented the black people of South Africa".

Because, you know, a supporter of Lester Maddox and George Wallace has the best interests of black people at heart.

After his contributions dropped off by $500,000 in the two weeks following the South Africa debacle, he decided to steer clear of race politics for a new obsession---

Butt sex.

"The sexual preference of Tinky Winky..." Oh hell, I can't even type with a straight face any diatribe that starts with "The sexual preference of Tinky Winky". And certainly, everyone remembers Falwell and the Beavis to his Butthead, Pat Robertson, lamenting that 9/11 was the fault of pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians, the ACLU, People For the American Way, and secularists.

One thing that he said in the middle of that diatribe was quite accurate, but not for the reason he thought it was.

"God will not be mocked".

So, who was it that really mocked God? The black Americans that demanded equal rights under law and the right to vote? Black South Africans that asked for the right to not be colonized into minority rule? The gays who walk among us every day of their lives as God made them?

Or some buffoon that never found a brand of bigotry he couldn't get behind?

Rest in peace, Falwell. I hope when you reach your final destination (I wouldn't lay odds on you going to heaven), that you're treated just as you demanded the powerless here on Earth be treated.

Also see:
Jerry Falwell's Greatest Zits
On the Passing of Jerry Falwell
Falwelling Down

Monday, May 14, 2007

The DLC's "Conversation With America"

The Democratic Leadership Council, the group just barely keeping the "blue" in "blue dog", has announced that it will hold their "National Conversation" in Nashville this July.

DLC founder Al From, Governor Phil Bredesen, and current DLC Chairman Harold Ford Jr. announced today that the event will be held July 28-30 at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Announcing the event at the Gaylord marks the first time Harold Ford Jr. has used the word "gay" without spewing out a right wing talking point or issuing a denial of some sort.

Among the seminars we can expect at the DLC conference are "Getting Our Asses Kicked In 2002 Wasn't So Bad", "Fox News Still Loves Us", "Exxon's Money Spends Too", "How To Spin Your Continued Support of the War In Iraq", "Learning To Love Alito", and last but not least, the longtime DLC favorite "I'm Not a Republican, But I Play One on TV".

Now, I don't mean to go off on a rant here--- Wait--- Yes I do.

The DLC and its new chairman serve quite effectively as the poster children for everything that's wrong with the Democratic Party today. Their consistent triangulation on the issues has served as a proven momentum-killer for any kind of progressive movement in America. And no one has personified that better than their current chairman.

The most dangerous patch of real estate in America today is not some dangerous ghetto, or some highly polluted spot--- It's the real estate between Harold Ford Jr. and a Fox News camera. It would be one thing if he went out there and stated a case for Democratic ideals--- But he does not. He goes out there and disavows progressive ideals every chance he gets.

And that, in a nutshell, is the purpose of the DLC. It's no coincidence that the very people that fund the Republican party also fund the DLC. The goal of the Bradley Foundation, the oil companies, and the military contractors is not a system of bipartisan compromise. Their goal is the eradication of progressive ideals.

They can't do that without our help. This is a castle that they cannot storm without someone lowering the drawbridge from the inside, and that's where the DLC comes into play. They do from within what conservatives cannot do from the outside.

When it looked like an anti-war candidate might win the 2004 Democratic nomination for president, what happened? The DLC attacked him for it. The DLC didn't just support going to Iraq--- It was so passionate about it that they felt comfortable questioning the patriotism of Michael Moore for disagreeing with them (That sounds kind of Republican, doesn't it?).

The DLC's constant capitulation to the right has been an assault not only on our ideals, but has created much of the apathy that Democratic activists face today.

The sooner this cabal of right wing interests is discredited, the stronger the Democratic Party will be.

Mythbusting II

A while back, I ran a piece clearing up some of the myths that are being spread around in the District 89 Tennessee House race, and who Congressman Steve Cohen is supporting in it. One of the most pervasive myths at that time was that Congressman Cohen, for some reason, didn't feel that his former campaign manager Kevin Gallagher deserved the seat.

The sign that he requested be put in the front yard of his house tells a different story.

Jackson Baker of The Memphis Flyer spoke to Cohen over the weekend, and has
written about it here. A few choice cuts:

Steve Cohen is no half-hearted booster of Kevin Gallagher for the open District 89 state House seat. That was the word this weekend from the congressman himself — disappointing though it may be to some of the boosters of Jeannie Richardson’s rival Democratic candidacy for the seat...

...if things got “nasty” in the race between the two Democrats, he would feel compelled to intervene on Gallagher’s behalf more directly than he has to date...

The congressman also confirmed that he had made a substantial contribution to Gallagher’s campaign coffers and had encouraged others to do so.

It's not quite the same as cutting a campaign commercial endorsing him, but the Congressman has clearly made his choice.

Click here to read Jackson Baker's Flyer article.

Friday, May 11, 2007

District 89 Early Voting Problems

The Democratic candidates in the District 89 primary went down to the Shelby County Election Commission this morning to vote for themselves first thing this morning, and by all accounts… Both walked away quite disappointed.

These kinds of mistakes would be understandable, though still bad, if they were made by the poll workers drafted into action every Election Day.

But they weren’t. These were full time Shelby County Election Commission Employees.

The first candidate to show up was Kevin Gallagher. He filled in his form and requested the Democratic Primary ballot. And when he got into the booth, he was given… The Republican choices.

He got out to try to sort out the mistake, and Jeannie Richardson had arrived. I personally know that Jeannie Richardson is a registered voter in District 89. She registered there two months ago. The full time Election Commission employees (Again, not election workers but full time Election Commission personnel) did not show her as a registered voter.

Kevin was eventually able to get the mess straightened out and to cast a vote for himself. But apparently, the Republican Primary is programmed in as a default, which can change the numbers drastically if it goes unrepaired. This is a relatively small special election--- What happens to someone that isn't a diehard follower of politics that goes in to vote based on name recognition and doesn't recognize the names?

And, as of 11:30 this morning, one candidate, Jeannie Richardson, had been unable to exercise her right to vote at all.

If these problems are not addressed, both candidates have legal grounds to throw this eleciton out.

As I was seconds away from publishing this story, I found out that Kevin Gallagher's wife Terry had the same problem her husband had. So as of five minutes ago, this problem is not fixed.

That's Why They Call It "The Fighting Ninth"

Okay, I'm not really sure who calls it, that, but really, it's beside the point.

For all those who are unfortunate enough to be represented by "The 59", I wanted to take this opportunity to show you what a real congressman, a real Democrat, looks like.

See, he could have taken the easy road like The 59 did. His predecessor carved out a comfortable niche for himself voting like The 59. Had he remained in office, I would surely be here talking about "The 60". That's just who he was.

He sat in one of the greatest Democratic strongholds in this nation, and instead of building a stronger Democratic base by showing actual spine, he caved time after time. He became the favorite Democrat of Ann Coulter, Don Imus, and Chris Matthews--- Which you cannot achieve if you actually remain faithful to any of the ideals of the party.

Steve Cohen went about it a different way. When the two paths diverged in the snowy wood, he took the one less travelled. He's actually exhibiting something we see rarely in the hallowed halls of Washington--- It's called courage.

For rather than becoming a Bush flunkie as The 59 did, he's reducing Bush flunkies to stammering, flop-sweating nervous wrecks.

This is how you build a movement. You do not build it by choosing your fights carefully and retreating for cover when the petulant man-child occupying the Oval Office threatens to hold his breath until he gets his way. You build it by fighting for what's right, regardless of whether it's politically expedient or not.

Steve Cohen could easily have made it "The 60" just as his predecessor would have done. He would have enjoyed a brief "attaboy" from the people that think sticking a yellow ribbon magnet on their Hummers amounts to "supporting the troops". And just as The 59 have done, he would experience a brief surge in popularity among the people that don't plan to vote for him next time around.

Or he can vote to quit sending American soldiers to die in a war with no true objective and grow the progressive movement by grilling the Right one sacred cow at a time.

For those of you that are still hanging in there, I would recommend popping some popcorn right now. Gather the family around your computer screen. True, it's just six minutes and change, but you'll want to watch it again and again.

And enjoy as Congressman Steve Cohen makes Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the most powerful lawyer in the land, as nervous as a pimple-faced fifteen-year-old asking his prom date "May I see your boobies?"

God, this footage would make a great campaign commercial.

Thank you, Congressman Cohen.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

59 People Who Deserve To Be Primaried.

Thanks, as always, to Blogfather Cracker.

Thankfully, I look down this list and do not see Congressman Steve Cohen on here. I do see a few of Tennessee's own. John Tanner, Jim Cooper, and Lincoln Davis--- You deserve to be primaried.

If you lack the political courage to bring an end to a war with a 60% disapproval rating, then you do not deserve your job.

Bishop (GA)
Boyd (FL)
Boyda (KS)
Davis, Lincoln
Green, Gene
Herseth Sandlin
Mahoney (FL)
Moore (KS)
Peterson (MN)
Scott (GA)
Udall (CO)
Wilson (OH)

Oh Mickey you are so fine!

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about this story.

The short of it: Hamas tried to use a Mickey Mouse identical looking cartoon to promote anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda to their children…

All judgment aside, I just wonder one thing: Where is the logic in promoting Anti-American message by plagiarizing an American Icon (Mickey freaking Mouse no less)?

I mean, isn’t that somewhat inherently self-defeating and oxymoronic?

Surely they must have someone semi-creative enough to do a more, uh, let’s say “culturally appropriate” cartoon to fit the message, wouldn’t ya think?

Hamas's got some firings to do in their marketing department…seriously!

The Importance of Being a Concern Troll

If you’re a liberal who has ever disagreed with a Democrat on Daily Kos, you’ve been called a name. I know I personally had this one slung at me many times for daring to disagree with our nominally “blue” former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., who since 2002 has voted with the Democrats about as often as Bea Arthur gets offered nude modeling opportunities.

The phrase is “concern troll”. My good friend Autoegocrat based an article on it after tirelessly using his trusted user status at Kos to take the branding off of myself and others who dared ask then-Congressman Ford to practice what he preached and support Democratic nominees for office.

It’s an easy thing for the mindless to say. It sure beats having to come up with a response if your mental faculties are so dull that you’ve reduced American politics to the level of a game of “Halo 2” where red is red, blue is blue, and you take great care not to frag your own.

But American politics are just not that simple.

Thanks to an email sent to me last night by Blogfather Cracker, I saw this piece on Americablog: BREAKING: Conservative Dems expected to vote with GOP to give Bush unfettered blank check on Iraq tomorrow.

If there has ever been a time to extol the virtues of fragging those wearing the same color as you, this is it.

Being a Democrat isn’t about how snazzy you look in a blue shirt. It’s supposed to be something ideological. People should be able to expect a core set of values when they see the (D) next to your name. And since the (R), with very few exceptions, has come to symbolize irresponsibility and irrationality when faced with the most grave decisions a lawmaker can face, it’s handy to know that the (D) stands for something else. Think of it as branding for Election Day--- Considering that two thirds of the American public wants the war to end, like, two years ago, it’s helpful for them to know that there’s a party that doesn’t think “Stay the course” actually qualifies as a plan.

The Republicans on Capitol Hill are busy bloviating on how they’re laying down the law” with President Bush, whose sole Iraq strategy seems to be “How can I keep this thing going on long enough for the next guy to get blamed?” In the meantime, they’re devoting their time on the floor to… Helping him keep this thing rolling right along long enough for the next guy to get blamed (One of the few areas where they are realistic is that they know the next occupant of the White House will not come from their side of the fence).

And now, word is breaking from Washington DC that conservative Democrats, the spineless, panty-waisted, indecisive nattering twits that lack the testicular fortitude to step away from Mr. 38% Approval have decided to help them.

Wait until the vote comes down. Look at the names of those who vote with the Republicans on this. If your congressman is among them, start looking for someone else to back in the next congressional primary. Because anyone who votes with the president’s refusal to bring this thing to the merciful end that it needs deserves to have the blue shirts ripped from their backs. I do not care if that primary opponent is a mangy, three-legged Dachsund named Mr. Sphincter--- Dogs are more loyal than conservative Democrats anyway.

I’m looking at you, Blue Dogs.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Workman Dead

"I have prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ not to lay charge of my death to any man. I commend my spirit into your hands, Lord Jesus Christ."

Shortly after speaking those words, Philip Workman's head drifted to the left, and he breathed his last visible breaths.

For a moment, we'll pretend that two of the most prominent ballistics experts in this nation didn't reach the conclusion that the fatal shot didn't come from Workman's gun. We'll pretend that the eyewitness they built their original case around was a reliable, upstanding witness rather than a convicted perjuror. We'll pretend that it was entirely fair that the judge who heard the original case was the one to preside over the appeal. We'll pretend there was nothing fishy about interring a murder victim without so much as an x-ray of the body and the state's inability to remain consistent on whether or not an x-ray existed at all.

In other words, we're casting aside the mountain of reasonable doubt in this case. We'll pretend, only for a moment, that he did it, and the state did a bang-up job of proving it. I'll even go a step further and pretend that no one in Lt. Oliver's family joined in the requests for clemency.

What did we accomplish with that needle?

Yes, the State of Tennessee sent a clear, unambiguous statement. And that statement is "Killing is wrong. And to prove that, we're going to kill you."

For even if we pretend that there was no reasonable doubt in the case, we cannot pretend that killing Philip Workman acheived any aim that imprisoning him for life did not. Is society any safer now that he no longer breathes than it was yesterday when he did? Is there someone out there contemplating murder that is going to be stopped by thinking "Workman got the needle--- Better not chance it"?

Criminologists are nearly unanimous in agreeing that the death penalty is absolutely worthless as a deterrent for crime. In this world where 50.1% is considered a "mandate", only 12% of criminologists think the death penalty has any deterrent value whatsoever.

Killing Philip Workman, even if we defy common sense by pretending there was no reasonable doubt, acheived absolutely nothing that keeping him in jail did not.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Last Chance

Tonight, the Philip Workman execution is to be carried out. The stay of execution was lifted yesterday.

Any other time, I would come here to discuss the justness of the death penalty. I've made no secret of my stance on it, nor will I now.

But that's a fight for another day altogether. For this is one of those rare cases where there is entirely too much reasonable doubt to ignore.

The eyewitness that the state built its case around has recanted his testimony. That's perhaps not unusual in capital cases, but what makes this one unusual is that not even the police could put Harold Davis at the scene of the crime. On the witness stand, he told us where his car was parked, and crime scene photos did not show his car there. Other witnesses on the scene never managed to see Davis. And if you watched Sharon Cobb's short film, you know that even the witness's own sister says he was with her that night.

Another witness on the scene, Steve Craig, has said that he saw policemen firing at Workman, despite their own testimony that they never fired their weapons. He was told "there was no need to talk about this ... unless it was with someone from the department." No one ever checked the service revolvers of Stoddard and Parker to see if they had been fired.

No less than Dr. Cyril Wecht, former lead consultant on the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Assassins and former president of the American Board of Legal Medicine has testified that the wounds on Lt. Loiver's body are not consistent with the .45 hollowpoint ammunition Workman used. Medical Examiner James Bell testified that the wound was not only inconsistent with the .45 hollowpoint, but was entirely consistent with the .38 ammunition used by the police.

Five jurors have signed affidavits asking that either the verdict or sentence be overturned based on the evidence that has come out since the original trial. And Lt. Oliver's own daughter and the original prosecutor have lent their voices to the call for clemency.

The time to do the right thing is running out. For even if you disagree with me on the justness of the death penalty you have to want to make sure that everyone receiving the death penalty deserves it.

Call Governor Bredesen at 615-741-2001 or email him at to ask him to put a stop to this.

Clemency is not absolution. There is reasonable doubt in this case, and the sentence becomes irreversible at 1 AM Wednesday.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about the procedures involved in a lethal injection execution. It's worth bringing up again here so we can have a look at what a Tennessee judge said yesterday is NOT cruel and unusual punishment:

The goal of lethal injection is not to be easier on the person being killed. The goal of lethal injection is to be easier on the person doing the killing.

First, you’re strapped to the gurney. Then the executioner inserts a catheter into each arm and flushes them with a solution to keep them from getting clogged.

If you’ve ever been in the hospital and had a clumsy nurse try to start an IV for you, think about that and then imagine what care she might have shown if you’d been convicted of murder and would soon be too dead to sue her.

In one arm, they give you 5000 milligrams of sodium thiopental, which puts you to sleep for about thirty seconds. In the other arm, they give you 100 milligrams of pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes your respiratory system.

Finally, they give you a dose of sodium chloride, which induces cardiac arrest. Within two minutes, the state is declaring you dead.

The British medical journal The Lancet reported on the results of forty-nine autopsies from Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Medical examiners found that in 43 of those executions, the condemned had lower levels of thiopental in their bloodstream than what is required for surgery--- Low enough that they were awake and aware as they slowly suffocated. Without enough thiopental, you remain awake and alert. The pancuronium stops you from moving, but leaves all of your higher brain functions intact.

So in fact, they went through excruciating pain, but since their bodies were crippled, they gave no outward indication.Let’s put this in perspective. Our standards for euthanizing animals are actually higher than our standards for executing the condemned.

Perhaps it’s simply the origin of the procedure shining through. It was created by Dr. Karl Brandt, personal physician to Adolf Hitler. How concerned with humanitarianism do you think he was?

So no--- I’m afraid that the question over whether or not lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment is far from a silly one.

We remedy inhumane acts by committing them ourselves. We avenge suffering and death by making others suffer as they die.

I believe in providing accurate information, and I found something that contradicts my writings from last year. While Dr. Karl Brandt was indeed a pioneer in lethal injections (He hanged for it at Nuremburg), the formula in use in America today was developed by Dr. Jay Chapman, who recently gave an interview to CNN verifying everything I wrote last year, and calls for a new formula to be established. Click here to read it.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Temporary Stay For Workman

It's not the best news we could have hoped for, but I'll take it.

A judge has issued a restraining order against Governor Bredesen, forbidding the execution of Philip Workman until after a hearing on May 14.

WPTY has the restraining order here.

Stranger Than Fiction: The People vs. Philip Workman

All right, let’s say you’re writing one of those TV shows about forensic investigations. For the sake of conversation, we’ll call it “CSI: Memphis”.

The draft that you hand in has a shooting victim’s entrance wound larger than his exit wound. The producer is going to hand it back to you and say “That’s not very realistic.” If you insist that it is, he’ll then hand the script off to the technical consultants on the show, who will hand it back to you and say “It doesn’t work that way. Please learn something about gunshot wounds before attempting to write again.”

But here in Tennessee, where the stakes are far greater than poorly written TV, we’re expected to believe that.

Okay, now you’re writing a police procedural drama. We’ll call it “Law & Order: Stupid Drug Addicts”.

Over the course of investigating a policeman’s killing, an eyewitness comes forward, stating that he saw the defendant shoot the victim. The “witness” didn’t turn up in the original canvass of the scene, nor did any vehicle he could have been in show up on crime scene photos. His sister says that not only was he not there, but he routinely made up false information and fed it to police so he could use reward money to feed his drug habit. Yet your script portrays him as a reliable witness.

Again, the script will be shoved back into your face and criticized as having little resemblance to reality.

You’re writing an episode of “Boston Legal”. The firm is defending a murder suspect. The policemen insist that the murder of another policeman couldn’t have been a friendly fire shooting because they never fired their guns. A witness on the scene says that he saw a policeman firing at the suspect with a shotgun. And the defendant’s medical records indicate that he had shotgun pellets removed from his backside.

But the policemen that insisted they never fired their guns are considered unimpeachable witnesses, and the jury returns a guilty verdict based on their testimony.

Airing such a story would induce a collective groan as every viewer in America vows at once never to watch the show again.

But these are the things we’re expected to believe in the Philip Workman case.

The closest thing to a form of entertainment that would try to push a story as absurd as this one would be if Rowan Atkinson filmed “Mr. Bean Goes to Trial”. Even that would be more likely to have a happy ending than the Workman case.

He has four more days unless the governor can muster the political will to prevent his senseless death. This is not the state administering a reasonable punishment--- It is a state-sanctioned hit on someone who, though he is far from a model citizen, did nothing to deserve to be killed.

And it’s happening in your name, Tennessee.

He Wants You To Unbuckle His Bible Belt...

I guess Ted Haggard was busy. That's why the International Bible Reading Association chose the White House's favorite male prostitute, Jeff Gannon, as their spokesman.

The true "money shot", as Gannon might have said while practicing his previous less-than-evangelical profession, comes from the Washington Post's Dana Milbank when he asked Gannon why only 37 of the 600 chairs on the Capitol lawn had been filled for the "Bible Reading Marathon":

"This isn't that kind of event," explained Jeff Gannon, spokesman for the host, the International Bible Reading Association. Gannon, actually a pseudonym for James Guckert, had earned fame in 2005 representing a conservative Web site at White House briefings until it was revealed that he posted nude pictures of himself on the Web to offer his services as a $200-an-hour gay escort.
Let us pray for the power to understand how Gannon made his way from to the International Bible Reading Association.

As someone who reads his Bible, all I can say is "Amen".


A certain person who shall remain nameless has been trying to drum up support for Jeannie Richardson in the District 89 Democratic Primary by telling anyone who sits still for too long that Congressman Steve Cohen didn't even want Kevin Gallagher running for office.

A stroll down Cohen's street shows you just how much the word of this individual can be trusted. These are pictures of Congressman Cohen's house.

The people of District 89 deserve better than this. The choice of who represents them in the House of Representatives should be based on facts and issues--- Not on the false word of a bullshit artist.

This particular person has motives that have absolutely nothing to do with getting the best representation for District 89. He's simply trying to remain relevant within the Democratic Party--- He decided decades ago that the best thing he could do is hitch up to the Ford Family train, and I suppose it never occurred to him that it might derail at some point. Now, he's like a shipwreck survivor--- Just looking for something to hang onto so he can keep his head above water.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The President's Chaos Theory

Every once in a while, you read one of those quotes that makes you wonder “Does he have any earthly idea what he just said?” If you listen very closely, you can hear Jon Stewart saying “Whuuuuuu?” already.

"It didn't make any sense to impose the will of politicians over the recommendations of our military commanders in the field." says President George W. Bush, the guy who has never found a commander in the field that he was willing to listen to. The guy who fired General Jay Garner. The guy who forced Anthony Zinni and Eric Shinseki into retirement. The president who keeps going through generals until he finds one who agrees with him (A difficult thing, since George W. Bush knows as much about reality on the ground in wartime as I know about supercolliding superconductors) listens to no one unless he finds someone delusional enough to say “Things are going great”, “We’re going to win”, and “I believe it’s perfectly ethical for your friends to profiteer off of the war effort. Do any of your donors make coffins and body bags?”.

Last night, he vetoed legislating an end to the fiasco he started. A fiasco that, according to him, was a “Mission Accomplished” four years ago. He announced it with a very flashy costume party aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (It’s long been a theory of mine that rightwing pundits compare him to Abraham Lincoln only so a Google search on “Bush + Abraham Lincoln” didn’t turn up a picture of him under the “Mission Accomplished” banner).

He keeps telling us there will be “chaos” if we set a timetable for withdrawal. As opposed to the orderly state of affairs in Iraq today, one would assume. Last month was the sixth deadliest month for American soldiers since the war began 50 months ago. 104 American soldiers lost their lives, as did twelve British soldiers, one other Coalition soldier, and a bare minimum of 1700 Iraqi civilians. So yes, we must PREVENT “chaos”.

Setting timelines is the only way to end this. The Iraqi government and their nascent military will never step up to the plate unless we put them in the batting order. And that simply does not happen as long as we’re willing to fight their civil war for them.

So this is not about producing a healthy Iraq--- That ship sailed. We can build a strong nation out of this rubble about as easily as we can bring back the people that have been killed there. It’s not about destroying al Qaeda--- Our involvement in Iraq has had much the same effect on al Qaeda throughout the Middle East that Alan Pinkerton’s efforts to kill Jesse James had--- Turned an organization of murdering terrorists into folk heroes. This war could not have helped al Qaeda more if the White House Communications Department was designing their recruiting campaigns (Which, judging by their bottomless well of recruits, seems to be more effective than our own recruiting campaigns).

We can have an unstable Iraq where Sunni and Shia kill one another with our soldiers in the middle, bogged down so heavily that we can’t respond to another crisis, or we can have Sunni and Shia kill one another without us in the middle, freeing up manpower and resources to deal with the next crisis.

This choice is a difficult one only if you’re a president that is trying to make sure that the stench of failure lands on the next guy instead of yourself.